Sample Answers to “What Contribution You Can Make to the PA Profession?”
Sample Answer #1
What I think I can contribute to the PA profession is my dedication to destigmatizing and raising awareness of mental illness among different populations, such as newcomers and immigrant communities who do not have access to language and culturally-appropriate care and services. I think a PA is the ideal health care professional role to bridge the gap between people in need and treatment since a PA is a part of a team and can introduce patients to several care options.
I have been inspired to do this ever since high school, when a close friend of mine was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had to be hospitalized. Piotr and I knew each other since childhood and our families were very close. Piotr's parents were good, hard-working people, but they weren’t able to come to terms with what was afflicting their son, so they put off seeing anyone. We didn’t think anything of the fact the Piotr would spend days in his room. We didn’t suspect anything when he would talk about seeing visions and things that weren’t there.
We all denied it until one day Piotr physically lashed out at his parents and there was no more denying it. Piotr didn’t harm himself or his parents that day, but they finally realized he needed help that they could not give him and consented to having him hospitalized. This illness had so suddenly taken my best friend and split apart his family and from then on, I wanted to be able to be in a role that could help people see the early signs of mental illness to help get them treatment sooner and hopefully avoid hospitalization.
I knew I wanted to do that as a PA, which is why I majored in psychology in my undergrad, and took several courses that covered themes such as social‑cultural neuroscience, or culture and evolution to help better understand how society views people with mental illness and how each culture has reacted to it in the past. As I learned more about how to approach discussions of mental illness in a culturally sensitive way, I went to my local Catholic church to ask if I could host a mental health awareness seminar at the church.
Since the church is central to Polish culture, I thought it would be the perfect venue to have the seminar so it would be more inviting. At the seminar we gave people statistics about how pervasive mental illness is, how to access care on an ongoing basis and the early signs of mental illness so they would know what to do if they or loved one experienced symptoms. I think as a PA I would like to continue going out into the community and taking a more proactive approach to changing how people deal with mental health in their families so they don’t have to end up being separated.
Sample Answer #2
I think what I can contribute to the PA profession is my drive to excel in the health sciences to be able to help people, which is something I think I share with this university’s mission, but is something that my father inspired in me as well. It was my father who instilled this love of the sciences since he was a food scientist who worked for a major food company and helped create some of the most popular snack foods on the market, which is something he later regretted.
When he was about to retire, my father read about skyrocketing obesity rates among young people all over the world, which his company had helped propel with the products he created and he felt culpable. After he retired, my father continued to work but as an advisor to several non-profits fighting to improve nutrition among young people and as a whistleblower against the food industry’s unethical marketing practices.
When I told him I wanted to follow in his footsteps in the food sciences, he told me that he was honored but that he would be even more honored if I used my skills in science to help people live longer, healthier lives, and not work to make them less healthy. That’s what put me on the path to being a PA.
But as for what I can contribute, I think it's my desire to keep learning and investigating that will be what I can contribute most. I graduated with a degree in chemistry, but I also plan on earning a Master’s in Biomedical Science, which is something that you offer here and attracted me to this particular program, to bolster my investigative and research skills so I can deepen my understanding of nutrition and how to counteract the ways that processed foods rewire the brain and almost addicts it to unhealthy foods.
I know it seems ambitious for a PA, but I feel like I owe it to my patients to be as knowledgeable and up-to-date as possible for their benefit. Unfortunately, for many people, a PA is often the only health care provider they can access so I want to be able to give them all the advice and support they need in one place, so they don’t have to travel or wait to see a specialist.
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Sample Answer #3
The biggest contribution I can make to the PA profession is my previous experience working as a registered nurse, which introduced me to working in high-stress health care settings, along with how to work with a care team to meet a patient’s unique needs. Being a nurse was a rewarding time in my life, but I wanted a little more autonomy and independence in my work, which I could not find as a nurse.
I know that being a physician’s assistant still requires supervision, but it has a bit more latitude when it comes to assessing and diagnosing patients, which is something I can also contribute: my patient-interaction skills. I often spent more time with patients than the attending doctor, so I got to know how to speak to them, and how to connect with them on a patient-nurse level.
I remember administering an EKG for a patient who had recently had a heart attack. We were silent but all of sudden, the patient began to cry. He was embarrassed and apologized, but I told him it was normal, especially in cardiac patients who had had a near-death experience, to be emotionally vulnerable and sensitive. The heart is an organ, I said. But it also reacts to everything that happens to us, good and bad, and now, I told him, it is learning to feel again and that he would feel and see things differently, which was one good thing he could take from his experience.
But having a team mindset is also something I feel I can contribute to the PA profession. I enjoy being part of a team and showing a patient that there are so many people looking out for their best interest. I would always make it a point to establish working relationships with all the specialists and technicians on my ward, so we would all be more comfortable working together, knowing we had each other’s backs.
Sample Answer #4
I think one area where the PA profession and I overlap is having a focus on prevention, as much as diagnosing and treating disease. I have always believed that taking small steps to prevent the development of serious, complex issues later in life such as diabetes, heart disease and other preventable diseases is one area where current medical practice is lacking.
My father had Type 2 diabetes. It ran in his family, and he chalked it up to being cursed with bad genes. Even though his doctor told him that losing weight, having a more protein-rich diet and cutting back on alcohol could all have positive effects on his health, my father resisted, and instead said that there was nothing he could do.
My mother even tried to change his diet by cooking vegetarian meals, but it didn’t stick. The only preventative measure that we got him to take was going for walks for at least one hour, which was something he enjoyed doing because it meant spending time with my mother. He thought that since he already had diabetes that there was nothing he could do to manage it, other than taking insulin, even though many doctors recommend taking these steps even if you have diabetes.
I have been taking these steps myself for the last ten years, since it is common for children with diabetic parents to develop it if no preventative steps are taken. But I also wanted to spread the message of how easy it is to prevent diabetes so I started a fundraising activity in the style of a challenge.
At the outset, participants would agree to donate a lump sum, which could be reduced if they performed at least half an hour of activity each day, every day over the course of a month. They could choose not to do any physical activity, but then their contribution would be the same, so the objective was two-pronged (raise awareness and funds) and we raised over $10,000 for diabetes research. I know as a PA that I will run into a lot of people like my father, but I think my experience in helping people realize simple ways to improve their health and getting them to see how easy it is, is something that I can contribute to the PA profession.
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Why Do PA Schools Ask This Question?
Asking a candidate what they can contribute is a common interview question across various fields and industries, not only PA schools. It can also take many forms, such as asking a candidate “what makes you stand out?”, “what do you bring to the table?”, and the tell me about yourself PA school interview question.
The reason so many professions ask this question is to know how you see yourself making a contribution to either a particular role, a company, or, in this case, a profession. It lets them see how well you know your profession and whether you know what you are getting into, regarding the professional and personal demands that come with working in health care and whether you take them seriously, or not.
Another important reason that PA schools ask this question is to see how you would hypothetically fit into the school’s culture and mission. They want to see what other students will learn from you, and vice-versa, while also looking at how you will contribute in other ways to the program, whether through extracurricular activities, research pursuits or academic excellence.
The question is also a way for PA school interviewers to know that you will truly thrive being a PA and that you are not choosing the profession for some irrelevant or superficial reason. That is why the question is used so broadly across so many different sectors, because it is an effective way, along with PA school requirements, to screen people based on how they see themselves contributing.
From your answers, PA admissions committee members can see if you truly understand what being a physician’s assistant entails and whether you are prepared to take on those challenges, or, depending on your answer, whether you are ill-prepared for the profession and have shown little consideration to what being a PA means.
How to Brainstorm Your Answer
The best way to answer this question is by truly reflecting on what you want to contribute and what you think you can contribute to the PA profession. You can use it as an opportunity to reflect on what it means to you so you can think of an answer that demonstrates your true motivations rather than simply telling the committee what you think they want to hear.
It is similar to how you would answer the “what are your goals as a PA” interview question, since it requires a lot of introspection, particularly about why you chose to be a PA rather than other medical professions such as nursing, dentistry, and medicine.
But this question also involves going outside of yourself and examining real-world instances of PAs contributing to their communities, which can also help guide your answer, so you should keep the following in mind as you think of an answer.
1. Research the Program
Researching the mission, values and goals of the institution you are applying to can help you brainstorm an idea of what exactly you can contribute to their particular program. Not all PA programs have the same goals and beliefs about education, health care and medicine so you have to read through a school’s academic offerings, educational philosophy and student testimonials to find out what they are all about.
Once you have an understanding of what the program values most about prospective students, you can then begin to draw from your own experiences to see how they match up with the school’s ideal candidate profile. If they have an emphasis on serving underserved communities you can talk about your own work (volunteer, paid or clinical) in these communities and how you would like to contribute further.
If the program is well-regarded for its research and regularly participates in important scientific and medical discoveries, talk about how what you learned as a research assistant can contribute to that mission. The same applies to every program; find out what the program looks for in its candidates, its mission and goals, and see how your personal experiences match up with those, which has the dual benefits of making you seem prepared and an ideal candidate for this program.
2. Use Real-World Examples
When you think of a contribution you’d like to make, you want to be able to back up your assertion by showing how you’ve already contributed in some way in your pre-PA years. For example, if you’re contribution is something intangible, such as your patience or understanding, make it tangible by talking about a time when you exhibited these qualities (such as during your extracurriculars for PA school).
But you can also talk about future contributions, such as what you will do to better or expand the role of physician’s assistant. The fact that you can talk more about your future than your past in this answer is an advantage and you should use it to imagine for yourself what else you will be able to contribute beyond your professional duties.
You can think about different PA specialties that require more schooling and training that you can pursue after you’ve spent a few years as a PA. You can talk about branching out into another discipline such as nursing or medicine or whether you plan on expanding the scope of the PA profession by becoming an ambassador, as one study found that there are only 150,000 PAs currently practicing worldwide.
3. Research the Profession
By the interview stage, you should be well-versed in what being a PA entails and what responsibilities it carries. But going through an interview is a good chance to review everything you know and possibly give you more material for how to respond to any questions you are asked. There is no better resource for this than to ask successful PA school candidates who have already been admitted.
You can also read the testimonials of working PAs and see how they respond to the question, specifically. But if they do not talk about that question, you can also pay attention to what they talk about and how it relates to the contribution question. You don’t want to copy their answer, but it should be a starting point for you to think about how these actual PAs are contributing to the profession beyond their everyday duties.
4. Ask Yourself First
You should of course ask yourself this question and take more than a few moments to figure it out. Ask and answer honestly. Do you want to be a PA because of job security? The money? The opportunity to work in health care? The travel? The freedom? Or do you truly want to help people and heal them and serve in underserved communities where physician assistants are the only primary care providers?
Your answer could be an amalgam of all these reasons and stating so in your answer does not take away from you as a candidate. You want to be as honest as possible and demonstrate a series of different qualities in your answer so you don’t seem one-dimensional or trite. For example, saying you want to have a rewarding career in a health care profession that is growing shows you are practical and level-headed.
On the opposite end, saying you only want to help people, and serve in underserved communities is a noble goal, but is a rote and tired answer to give during an interview. But if that is truly your goal, then you should be able to back it up with real-world examples of how you’ve brought this desire to fruition, so far. If serving in underserved communities is your passion, have you volunteered in urgent care clinics or hospice care?
There are a number of things that you can say that you will contribute, but just like you would write in your PA school interview essay, you should show how your commitment has carried over into the real-world rather than remaining only an impulse you had or have. But if your contribution is yet to come, you can talk about what you will do to make sure those goals are completed during your career. This holds true for any aspect of your application from your PA school supplemental essay to your PA personal statement.
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The best PA schools in the US and Canada all have an interview element for their application process, so knowing how to describe what contribution you can make to the PA profession is important. Fortunately, the fact that the physician assistant profession is relatively new compared to being a doctor or nurse, means that there is a lot that needs to be contributed so the profession can grow.
You can point to almost any aspect of being a PA (there are only three PA schools in Canada, similar patient satisfaction and outcomes as with MDs) as something that needs to grow or develop, or that you can be a part of. There are so many aspects of the PA profession that you can talk about and finding them out should be part of your preparation to answer this question. Once you understand what current PAs are doing and how they are changing the way health care is delivered around the world, you can then think about where you fit into that mission.
1. What can I contribute to the PA profession?
Answering that question requires deep introspection, figuring out your strengths and weaknesses, and what the PA profession lacks and needs. Try to find where your own personal interests and passions intersect with the needs of the profession and how you can help expand the acceptance of physician assistants as essential members of a health care team.
2. Why do PA schools ask this question?
PA schools, as any organization, ask this question to see whether you think about the profession in the long-term or short-term and how much you know about it. They also ask you as a way to see how much you know about yourself and what you can contribute. The admissions committee is not looking for any specific answer, but for you to reveal what is important to you and what you prioritize.
3. How should I answer this question?
You should craft an answer that is completely unique to you and what you want to achieve as a PA. You can pull from your PA school cover letter and talk about how you contributed to your past volunteer or clinical positions. Or you can talk about something you want to do, like go into underserved communities, and talk about what steps you would have to take to make those goals a reality.
4. How long should my answer be?
1 minute would be more than enough. Do not go longer than two minutes.
5. How should I prepare?
Research what the PA profession needs or what the people whom PAs serve need so that you can connect aspects of your personality and character to those needs. Use mock interviews to practice in realistic interview settings.
6. Should I practice giving my answer?
Yes, you most certainly want to practice giving your answer. You do not want to write a script and repeat it verbatim. Instead, you want to remember a few key aspects of your answer and then create the narrative in a variety of different ways so you can recall them easily during your interview. Practicing giving your answer will also make you more comfortable with the interview itself, as you do not feel like you’re in an unfamiliar environment.
7. Should I research my answer?
Yes, finding out as much as possible about the current state of the PA profession is an excellent way to figure out how you can contribute. You can read the stories of current PAs, and how they’ve made contributions to the profession that you can talk about as something aspirational for you. You can also read more about what is preventing the PA profession from being adopted globally and how you can help to bring PAs into new environments.
8. Is it worth becoming a PA?
The physician assistant position is one of the fastest growing jobs in health care, and it is only getting bigger, so it is definitely worth becoming a physician’s assistant if you are interested. Physician assistant acceptance rates in the US are not as low as MD programs, but the admissions requirements are just as rigorous, so it is a challenging profession, but without as much training and schooling.
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