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Physician Assistant Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns
Updated November 13th, 2020 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Health    

Question 1 of 25

What are some of the challenges of working as a physician assistant?

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Interview Questions

1.

What are some of the challenges of working as a physician assistant?

This question is similar to the interviewer asking what your weaknesses are. Because this is one of the most common interview questions, you'll want to have a few examples prepared. Consider a few examples of patients coming in with a variety of unexpected ailments, technology going wrong or a coworker showing up late for work. Tell the interviewer how you handle these situations.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"A challenge as a PA can be that we have more patients than we have coverage or availability. I've learned so much working in this fast-paced environment. My most important take away from these types of situations has been learning the importance of time management, clear documentation, and appropriate scheduling."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"My biggest challenge is having to prioritize on a daily basis, in hopes of getting everything done. No two days are the same as a physician assistant, so I can use a plethora of skills, which is amazing. I have become very proficient at prioritization and delegation."

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Anonymous Answer

"As a PA, you are trained as a generalist provider, and possibly a given specialty if you so choose. However, as a PA, you may encounter cases that are complex and beyond what you may feel comfortable treating and diagnosing. You can collaborate with other providers and do the best you can to treat the patient. Sometimes patients may be too complicated, and you may have to refer them to another provider. Also, in any health profession, patients maybe not wanting to deal with their health condition, and you have to do the best you can to treat, educate, and provide resources. It is challenging to figure out how to best manage and help each patient, but as a provider, you should do your best to provide individualized care to have the best outcomes for patients."

Rachelle's Answer

These are real work challenges, indeed. You do a nice job offering up options on how to overcome situations like this.

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Anonymous Answer

"Any time you are working with people, there is always the challenge of communicating effectively. Whether it's with patients or co-workers, it's important to take time to ensure both parties are on the same page working in the same direction. Patients with unexpected ailments present a unique challenge. I may have to refer them out or take extra time to contact my supervising physician."

Rachelle's Answer

This is a very well thought out response.

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2.

Tell me about yourself.

When an interviewer asks an open-ended question like this, it can be difficult to know where to begin...and end! This question haunts many individuals who may accidentally go a little too in-depth into their personal lives. It happens. Keep your reply light, and work relevant. Share how you became interested in this career path and what you enjoy about it. This is an excellent opportunity to describe yourself by discussing the strengths and qualities that you bring.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I am a competitive individual who is driven and likes to win. In addition to my successful career as a physician assistant, I also spend time playing competitive sports. I give back by volunteering at the local animal shelter and working for a variety of annual fundraisers in our community."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I come from a family of nurses and doctors, so it was an early dream of mine to be a physician assistant. I've seen many of my family members thrive in the healthcare field, and I'm excited to provide care to my own patients sometime soon."

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3.

How would you rate your performance in this interview so far?

This question is a stress test! You need to be honest about your feelings about this meeting while maintaining an air of confidence at the same time. Be honest. It's okay to ask the interviewer to circle back if you aren't pleased with your initial response.

If you feel that your performance in the interview is going well: "I believe that this interview has been quite informative and I am happy with my performance. Is there anything that I can clarify for you from this conversation?"

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I believe that this interview has been quite informative and I am happy with my performance. Is there anything that I can clarify for you from this conversation?"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"If you feel that your performance in the interview is not going well: "I am not sure if I have been able to portray myself 100% accurately in this interview; although, I am trying my best. If there is anything more that I can clarify for you, I would be happy to do so."

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Anonymous Answer

"I believe that the interview is going well and that we have had an informative exchange. Is there anything I can provide clarity on?"

Rachelle's Answer

Excellent!

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4.

How do you feel when a physician criticizes your work?

The interviewer is asking this question for a few different reasons. They want to hear how well you handle criticism if you name drop or speak poorly of the one that challenged you and if you seem to hold a grudge over the situation. If you choose to give an example, be sure it allows you to demonstrate your ability to handle criticism with style.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"It is never easy to be criticized or to receive unfavorable feedback. However, I believe that I can learn from each experience and constructively move forward. For example, a physician recently mentioned to me that my notes in the database were not as detailed as she would prefer. I had to take a minute and breathe because I spent extra time on those notes and felt frustrated by the feedback. However, I knew this physician could be tough to please so I asked her to show me exactly how she preferred the notes in the system so that next time, as a team, we could be more efficient."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am newer to my career as a PA and, with that information, sometimes comes additional critiques from physicians. I take every critique as a learning opportunity. I am thankful for any feedback that helps me to become a better healthcare practitioner."

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Anonymous Answer

"While it is never easy to receive criticism as a new provider, I expect to receive a lot of feedback. I have found that when I can take a step back from criticism or feedback, I can usually grow and become a better provider."

Rachelle's Answer

Perfect response!

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5.

What are some highlights from your clinical rotations?

You may have a long list of experiences worth sharing, but see if you can narrow it down to three. After logging over 2,000 hours worth of rotations, you have learned about treating everything from broken bones to infectious diseases.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I've experienced situations where I was able to jump-start someone's healing process, and times where I felt like a fish out of water. In both types of scenarios, I learned so much. One of my most memorable experiences was working with an elderly lady who broke her hip. She survived the hip surgery, which was amazing, but we noticed some problems with her heart in the meantime. After some investigating, we learned that she had a blockage. While I learned how delicate and sensitive elderly patients could be, I also learned how powerful having a good attitude can be. After multiple surgeries, this 75-year-old woman was still going and still smiling!"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"My most powerful experience during clinical rotations was working with the pediatric oncology unit. I had worked with cancer patients in the past, but never with children and this rotation sparked my passion for oncology care and research. I left that rotation knowing that I wanted to work in hospitals for the rest of my career, it lit a spark in me."

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6.

Are you available to work nights?

This could be a tough question to answer if you are not able to work nights. Answering this question with a 'no' isn't necessarily a deal breaker. The interviewer may know of a day shift opening in a few weeks and will keep your name on the back burner until then. Or, the interviewer may be able to work with your shift request. You need to be honest so that you guarantee you're ending up in a role that will suit your scheduling needs.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I currently work a day shift, 7 am to 5 pm. I am seeking a role with the same schedule. With that said, I am a team player, and can certainly pick up the odd night shift to cover someone when needed."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"As I am new to my career as a physician assistant, I believe that I should make myself available for any shift options. Could you provide me with further details on your night shifts?"

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7.

What will you do if you have a client that refuses to take care of their health?

There are many challenges in the healthcare field, and one of them is treating patients who lack the desire to make healthy choices. You may encounter individuals who repeatedly visit your office with the same symptoms, asking for a pill rather than making the effort to live a healthy lifestyle. As you know, lifestyle choices greatly impact specific conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Tell the interviewer how you would handle a patient when they continue to complain of the same symptoms without taking the initiative to help themselves.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have learned that working in the medical field requires a certain amount of tolerance. I remind patients of the impact healthy lifestyle choices will make on their conditions, but sometimes I am limited on my influence. I have found that giving patients a clear picture by explaining what is actually happening in their body helps them to understand and often take action."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"It is frustrating to see ailing individuals who do not want to help themselves. I have found that many people are overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting information they receive. I will encourage my patients to make one small change at a time. This could include committing to drinking more water, or eating more fibrous foods."

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Anonymous Answer

"I would do my best to met them where they are. I would continue with education and treatment options. I would work with the patient to come up with even one small lifestyle change they could make to better their health. It's important for patients to be involved in their own healthcare decision-making process."

Rachelle's Answer

Very well stated! I have changed the order just a touch, to help with the flow.

"It is important that patients be involved in the health care decision-making process. For this reason, I do my best to meet them where they are at; meaning, I would continue with education and treatment options. Working with a patient to come up with even one small lifestyle change could be enough to make an impact on their health."

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Anonymous Answer

"In general, all health care professionals have a duty of taking care of their patients and making sure they comply with their medications and health advice. However, THE PATIENT is accountable for their health and their bodies. We can't force-feed them medications: the only thing we can do is keep following up with care and advice, but it takes listening and compliance for results to be seen."

Rachelle's Answer

Your answer shows a great deal of professionalism as well as boundaries that are necessary while working with patients and inside the healthcare system in general. Good work!

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8.

How do you plan to continually grow as a physician assistant?

You have an elevated degree; however, that doesn't mean that you stop learning once you have reached the top. Discuss your plans to take professional courses, obtain new certifications or focus on personal growth. You may also want to mention a class or volunteer position to highlight your commitment to professional growth.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I am so happy to have completed my Master's Degree in Genetics. I recently enrolled in a course that will increase my knowledge on the relationship between pharmacology and biomarkers."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I never stop learning and believe that, especially in the healthcare industry, one must stay up to date on new trends and discoveries. I plan to continually grow as a physician's assistant by taking monthly courses on a variety of related topics. If there are any courses you recommend, I would be happy to hear your recommendations."

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Anonymous Answer

"What I like about being a physician assistant is that you are continually learning about different specialties, and you continuously learn on the job. I plan to continue growing by reading current medical journals, taking courses, and possibly getting my doctorate in physician assistant studies."

Rachelle's Answer

It sounds like you have a great plan already in place for flourishing in this career. Well done :)

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9.

How do you gain a physician's trust and respect?

Professional working relationships are essential as a health care provider who regularly works on a multidisciplinary team. You can be specific about your process or stay general by sharing some of your best practices around "building trust." If possible, share an example of how you gain trust within the patient care team or how you relate to others.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"building trust."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I feel that the best way to earn the trust of the physicians is to be helpful, always do what I promise, and be honest with them at all times. Strong relationships have to be built on these principles."

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10.

What are your weaknesses as a physician assistant?

Preparing for this question requires a great deal of self-awareness and strategy. Focus on a weakness that you could turn into a strength or take action on to improve. Always share what you are learning, or have learned, from your weakness. This shows your interviewer that you are adaptable and willing to grow.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I tend to be a people-pleaser, and it has gotten me in trouble when I take on more than I can handle. I'm learning my limitations and learning how to say 'no' or 'let me check my schedule' before I say yes to anything."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am still working on my ability to juggle all of the priorities that come with the role of a physician's assistant. Each day is unique, and with it, comes unique challenges. I have learned to take a few minutes at the start of each morning to lay out my care plan, highlight priorities and adjust my schedule when needed."

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Anonymous Answer

"As a new provider, I am still learning how to maximize the EHR. I plan on continuing to grow my knowledge with tutorials and any available resources from the practice."

Rachelle's Answer

Perfect response! You show that you seek growth while also being confident in your abilities.

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11.

Who is your mentor in the healthcare industry?

In this particular situation, your interviewer is looking for a mentor in the same career field. If your crazy best friend is who you look up to, you may want to censor and save those stories for another time. The interviewer wants to know who you get your professional direction and advice from. Did a professor take you under their wing and guide you? Perhaps a family member has overcome challenges in life and has pushed you to become the person you are today.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"When it comes to my career as a physicians assistant, the physician I currently work under has been my professional mentor for the past six years. She has taught me a lot of skills and given me knowledge far beyond a basic PA."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"My professional mentor is my former pharmacology professor. I excelled in his class which prompted a great relationship between the two of us. He offered me more advanced work and helped me find an excellent practicum placement. Even though I have graduated, we still meet once per month to discuss changes in the healthcare industry."

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Anonymous Answer

"I had the opportunity to have a PA as a mentor in my senior year of college. She worked as a family medicine PA at a small clinic in an urban suburb of Minneapolis. She very much inspired me to want to go into primary care, and help provide healthcare to populations that do not have adequate access. She made a difference in people of all ages and backgrounds lives, from children's physicals to older adults with hypertension, she impacted the health outcomes of individuals."

Rachelle's Answer

It sounds like you had an excellent mentor which is an experience that can offer up a significant advantage as you grow in your own PA career.

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12.

What is a dependent practitioner, and how do you feel about practicing as one?

As a physician assistant, you are by definition a dependent practitioner. You rely on your supervising physician to make decisions about your patients. Many PA's are given the liberty to handle a variety of situations with patients, making recommendations similar to a doctor. However, ultimately you will be referring to the doctor on final decisions.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I appreciate the fact that I can rely on my supervising doctor for support when treating patients. I respect the wealth of knowledge they bring to the table and I value my relationship with them. I'm excited about my influence as a Physician Assistant because even though I'm dependent upon the doctor's final say in many situations, I still have some of the same freedoms to treat patients."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"To me, a dependent practitioner is a medical professional who still works under the supervision of a physician. I feel very prepared to work as a dependent practitioner. My education and practicum have both prepared me for the opportunity."

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Anonymous Answer

"A dependent practitioner is someone who works on a team with a physician as a supervised practitioner. I am excited to work as a dependent practitioner with the XYZ team. I am expecting the practice agreement to be a progressive document that with expand with my increased knowledge and skills."

Rachelle's Answer

Great answer!

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Anonymous Answer

"A dependent practitioner means you practice under the supervision of an MD. I think collaboration in healthcare is very important because you are ultimately making decisions that impact others' health outcomes. Even though you are practicing under an MD, you still have autonomy in situations you are trained in, and confident to address. However, I very much like the idea of being a dependent practitioner, because I will always have the opportunity to collaborate with an MD if I want a second opinion on the best solution for a positive outcome for a patient."

Rachelle's Answer

You sound highly collaborative with an interest in learning and growing while leaning on the support of a MD. Great response!

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13.

What department of the healthcare field most interests you?

Tell the interviewer what type of patients you enjoy working with or particular department you prefer to work in. This preference may be related to your educational expertise. Tell the interviewer if you enjoy assisting the elderly or working the neo-natal unit. Talk about your experience regarding your area of specialty. Elaborate on why you enjoy it.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I enjoy working in the ER because I see all kinds of different injuries and accidents. I specialize in handling trauma. I'm good at moving quickly and staying calm in an emergency. I love working in the business of saving lives and giving people the tools to begin their recovery."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"My educational specialty is in patient assessment. For that reason, I am most interest working in triage or intake."

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Anonymous Answer

"I am most invested in Orthopedics. Ortho was my primary interest going into PA school, and I particularly enjoyed my ortho rotation."

Rachelle's Answer

Great! Your answer will help guide the hiring authorities when it comes to finding placement and opportunities for you.

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Anonymous Answer

"As a type 1 diabetic, I have a bias towards endocrinology. I very much appreciate the long term connection you can make with patients and the help you can provide at various stages of managing their chronic condition. My motivation for becoming a PA was positive connections I had with providers, and as a PA, I would like to have similar impacts on my patients' long term."

Rachelle's Answer

Your desire to work in endocrinology comes from a personal reality that gives your answer so much meaning. Well said.

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14.

How would you describe your work ethic?

You may be carefree and fun-loving with your friends on the weekends, but at work, you are focused and professional.The interviewer is interested in your personality and how you will fit with the team. Give specific examples or keywords they can relate to. When you read the company job, posting or job description do they refer to particular ethics? Talk about their values and how those align well with your work values.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I am a very dedicated and loyal employee. I saw on your website that you describe your facility as honest, transparent and you go the extra mile for your patients. My work ethic is the same. I am honest, flexible, and come ready to work hard for my patients every day."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Some characteristics you may want to use are:

- Determined/Driven
- Accountable
- Humble
- Respectful
- Dependable"

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15.

What qualities does a great leader have? Which do you possess?

The interviewer would like to know that you understand the qualities that a great leader should possess. Highlight your ability to work with a team, and actively communicate. If you had a great mentor or supervisor in your past, feel free to mention something specific about what you learned from them.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I believe that being a great leader requires a balance between working collaboratively with your team members while also being a consistent individual contributor. For example, we have a department project where everyone must work together to reorganize the supply closet, and each team member has an assigned task. I must strategically plan the work for the team but also communicate productively and professionally for everyone to understand the goal. I also took on a small part of the project myself, so they can see that I am committed to the outcome. I learned this from a mentor of mine when I was just starting out as a PA."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Here are some great leadership qualities you may possess:

- Clarity in delegation
- Ability to teach and mentor
- Willingness to accept feedback
- Being an inspiration to your team
- Understanding what motivates your team
- Takes ownership for mistakes
- Chooses to coach first, before discipline"

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Anonymous Answer

"In my opinion, a great leader is someone very passionate, patient, cooperative, and a great listener. Working throughout the different clinical settings, especially as a medical assistant, I have developed these skills. As a medication assistant, I am always working in a team and sharing ideas with PAs, NPs, MDs, nurses, social workers, and my medical assistant colleague. I work with people who speak different languages; It required a great deal of patiently listening and communicating with them. I am always collaborating with teams and finding a way to help each other to succeed."

Rachelle's Answer

Very nice answer! You are thorough and do a wonderful job highlighting the ways that you possess these qualities.

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