Before being accepted into a physician assistant college or university program, you will have to submit college undergraduate transcripts, present letters of recommendation, provide proof of direct patient care hours, supply national test scores, and have an interview. It is a multi-step process with variances from one school to the next, but these are typical of most PA programs.
Statistics reveal that almost 80% of PA applicants have medical experience where they have obtained the requisite hours of patient care experience (PCE). Examples are EMTs, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, radiology technicians, and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). Those not involved in direct patient care will have to find a way to gather the hundreds of hours that PA programs require.
Individuals in the workforce will have interview experience, in most cases. A job interview, in either person or online video, is one of the crucial components in the employment process. As with any skill, practice improves performance. Therefore, those whose interview skills are rusty or need a refresher course – it is beneficial to practice with someone. There are common questions asked during most interviews that are unrelated to the job or the PA program. Interviewers pose questions so that the interviewee will elaborate on experiences and ambitions; this part becomes an autobiography: a glimpse into your life and personality.
The following are questions often posed. Some are specific to the respective PA program, and others are general or unrelated to your future studies.
Tell me about yourself
The statement is a staple for most interviews regardless of the status or stature of the position. In response, you could offer a synopsis of your birthplace, then segue into an interest or sport you excelled in or how it was a positive experience in the early years. From there, bring the interviewer to recent or present times when the initial success in something is still a positive influence.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
This question is one of the most common in any interview. Preparation is vital to expressing how your strengths will ensure success in your studies and as a future PA. Interviewers do not want a chronology of when and where you excelled. Try to focus on recent accomplishments that demonstrate problem-solving or diligence.
Rehearse your weaknesses in advance to avoid a recital of faults. Select an example of when you turned something negative into a positive by work ethic or determination.
Why become a PA?
One could replace the ‘PA’ with any occupation, as this is another common question. Expectedly, students applying for a PA program have personal reasons and convictions, why they want to make this a career (not financial!). The answer should flow without hesitation to show you have given this topic serious consideration.
Also, the student should avoid generalizations, such as I want to help people with medical problems. Individuals with patient experience can elaborate on a particular incident when the care made a difference in someone’s life. For example, working with a medical team in a collaborative relationship was rewarding. If you can draw from personal experience, it will add merit to your response.
Why our program?
The reply demands preparation through research of the program’s accreditation, accolades, history, and curriculum, for example. Interviewees want to stress why their program is the one for you, despite others on the list. Whether you interview for an executive position or an entry-level job, the company, school, or organization wants to know: Why us?
What is it about this PA program that captured your attention? There may be other factors, such as tuition or proximity to your residence, which play a role; however, these should be left unsaid.
So many questions
Preparation is paramount. The internet is chock-full of sites offering advice and sample questions providing help for the experienced and inexperienced interviewee. One has the label of 110 PA School Interview Questions in 2020. Write some of these out for a friend, colleague, partner, or confidant to ask randomly. You may not be ready for all questions, but the practice will make you more confident approaching the interview.
Prepare your attire; dress professionally and conservatively. Be articulate and avoid colloquialisms.
The interview allows you to ask questions about the program. Was there something from your research that needs clarification – something positive, preferably? After all, if accepted, you will be paying hard-earned cash for tuition. You want the assurance that their program is ideal for you, as much as you are the perfect candidate for their PA program.
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