It seems easy but answering the “why do you want to be a PA?” interview question can be deceptively tricky. All PA school interview questions present a challenge because not only do you have to answer quickly, succinctly, and accurately, but you also have to do so in such a way as to leave the best impression on whoever is interviewing you. Preparing for this is one of many PA school requirements that you just have to deal with.
In this article, we’ll give you example answers for how to answer this question as well as a breakdown of how to answer. Plus, we’ll go over expert tips and advice for your PA interview.
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Why Do You Want to Be a PA Interview Question: Answers
Example Answer No.1
I have always thought of myself as a team player. All of my favorite experiences growing up were learning to be part of a team, whether that was playing soccer, acting in a school play, or playing trumpet in a jazz trio on Saturday nights. I am a person who appreciates being part of the group because I get to bring my talents and skills to both complement and be supported by other members of the group.
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Of all the medical careers I looked at, physician assistant appealed to me most because of its dynamic in the health care team. A physician assistant uses a wide knowledge of medicine, anatomy, and diseases to cover cases a doctor can’t get to, or that are outside of the scope of practice of nurse practitioners. Being able to support other team members, and knowing that my colleagues have my back, will create a special work environment that I believe I will thrive in.
With a variety of areas in which I can specialize, I know that I can find a physician assistant path that will ideally suit my goals and let me be a part of a great team of health care professionals.
What Makes This a Great Answer?
This person has been asked to explain their career choice, and it’s clear they know who they want to be. This candidate has evidently put some thought into how they want to fit into the health care team, and they have a clear understanding of what it means to be a PA.
Additionally, in describing their temperament as it pertains to being a PA, this student has filled in details that make them appear more desirable. First, they have had a variety of experiences – sports, theater, and music – and second, they value teamwork and camaraderie, which at least implies they are a good team player.
Example Answer No.2
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a nurse. Well, cowboy nurse, but the main thing I seemed to want to do was put bandages on people and make them feel better. As I grew up, I grew out of the naive thinking that bandages amounted to nursing, and I set my sights on a different goal.
I was doing some volunteer work at the hospital and speaking with some of the nurses there. I was talking about my career ambitions and about all the ways I wanted to help people and participate. They told me about nurse practitioners and suggested shadowing one at the hospital.
While I did come away from that experience deeply impressed by the NP I was shadowing, I also felt like I wanted a more direct role with the diagnosis and healing process of the patients. Through more conversations with hospital staff, I found myself drawn to the role of physician assistant. It provides the right balance in terms of my career goals, while fitting my skillset, honed during my time volunteering and shadowing at health care facilities.
Since learning about the job of PA, I have never wavered in my pursuit for years, and I feel I have found something like a calling in my career evolution. It was a long journey of ambition from childhood ideas to the passionate pursuit of my calling, and I am looking forward with excitement to being a PA. Although maybe cowboy PA would be cool, too.
What Makes This a Great Answer?
This tells us something of the student’s journey from their childhood to their adulthood, and knowing their story humanizes them and lets the interviewer or interviewers know who this person is on a more fundamental level.
It also shows the amount of thought put into becoming a PA.
Another great aspect of this answer is hearing the student discuss their extensive experience at hospitals. They don’t go into great detail, but it opens the door to a possible follow-up question about what their hospital duties and experiences were. The interviewee would then have the opportunity to describe some of their highly developed skills, or some of their other best extracurriculars for PA school.
Finally, take note of another important aspect here: the danger inherent in speaking about previous career ambitions. This could give the impression that the student might decide to switch jobs again or might not be serious about being a PA. The applicant sidesteps this pitfall nicely, however, by enthusiastically asserting that they have not changed their mind since deciding on PA, a decision they made some years ago.
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Example Answer No.3
Medicine is the family business. My mother is an MD, my father works as a nurse. Both of my grandfathers were doctors, and one of my uncles is a physician assistant. Growing up, it was almost assumed that I would continue in the family tradition and take up some form of work in health care. I wasn’t convinced at first and didn’t give my career a lot of thought for the first few years of high school. When I did think about it, if anything, I was inclined to rebel a little and do something else.
However, while working as a lifeguard, I got my first aid training and ultimately had to use it to save somebody. As anyone trained in first aid will attest, you never know when you will be called to act, and it’s usually not what you planned for. In my case, I used what I had learned about drowning to intervene with a senior man who was choking. Arriving on the scene at the mall just after the man lost consciousness, I was able to clear his airway and get him breathing again. After the adrenaline cleared out of my system, I knew that I wanted to help people.
My family connections let me understand a lot of the different kinds of health care jobs available, but I shadowed my uncle and loved the idea of being a physician assistant. It seems to me to put me in a direct position to save lives and to help and heal people. The balance of being more patient-oriented than a doctor, but more treatment-oriented than a nurse seems right for me.
So, I have decided to embrace my family’s unofficial tradition after all.
What Makes This a Great Answer?
This also explores the journey that the student has taken to arrive at their conclusions – their goal of being a PA. Likewise, this is another great example of referring directly to the skills this person can bring to the job: the student tells a story of how they not only know first aid but have used it in a life-or-death situation.
This applicant has the advantage of knowing a PA personally – their uncle – but however it is expressed, this student has let the interviewers know that they are very familiar with what the PA job entails.
Example Answer No.4
I have tremendous respect for the physician assistants at the downtown hospital, St. Jerome’s, where I work. Always busy, always helping out, and always cheerful, they're inspiring to observe. I knew that I wanted to work in health care, and I have loved the opportunity to witness health care every day at work. However, it is thanks to my friendships with PAs that I decided to go into the field myself.
First, my friend Abed loves his job as a PA, which requires fast-paced work, attention to detail, and health care teamwork, all traits I have learned by working as a desk clerk at St. Jerome’s. There is always something else to do – phone calls to make, patients to liaise with, family to direct, or paperwork to fill out and file – and keeping a steady, fast pace is necessary. Speaking with Abed about his work inspired my interest in becoming a PA.
Although I am not yet directly involved with patient care, I must be in constant collaboration with other members of the health care team, which is another aspect of the role of PA I would enjoy. In a recent visit, I helped Denise – another PA – with her history-taking for several patients, which showed me how a PA can rule out – or in – potential causes of a patient’s problems. In shadowing other PAs at the hospital as well, I’ve learned how they work and seen the care and dedication required for the job.
The deeper in to the health care field I go, the more excited I am to begin my studies to become a physician assistant.
What Makes This a Great Answer?
This person has a wealth of experience working in a health care environment and is clearly passionate about their work. That passion showing through conveys to an interviewer the kind of enthusiasm they will get. Combined with the applicant’s experience, this becomes a great answer to the interview question about why they will be an asset to their desired profession.
Answers should be quick and direct. You don’t want to ramble or extend your answer unnecessarily. On the other hand, you should take enough time to adequately answer the question without rushing. This typically works out to about two minutes or possibly three.
With that said, it is very similar to a small, PA school interview essay, structure-wise. Start with a good opening sentence – a “hook” that draws the viewer in – and then move on to make one main point about why you decided to be a PA. This should take a few sentences before you wrap up at the end.
For what to include, consider what you mentioned in your PA school cover letter or some of your PA school supplemental essays. Although we caution against being repetitive in your application materials, the theme of why you want to be a PA should run through all your essay and interview responses.
Interview Tips and Advice
Armed with these expert examples and with the best tips for your interview, you should be ready to start studying and practicing for your own PA interview. Remember to plan your study sessions far enough in advance to give yourself time to get ready for anything.
1. What’s the difference between a physician assistant and a doctor?
Exact differences between PA vs. MD differ from state to state or country to country. Generally, however, the PA does most of what an MD does. They do not perform surgeries, usually do not take on some of the more complex cases, and they might have restrictions on issuing prescriptions.
2. How long does it take to become a PA?
Roughly three years.
3. How long should my answers be in the interview?
About 2 or 3 minutes is good.
4. How long should I take to prepare for my interview?
Long enough to go over potential questions, practice answers, and get at least one round in with a mock interview. Going over material every day for about two weeks is good.
5. Should I arrive early for my interview?
Yes. You should be at least a half an hour early for an in-person interview. If your interview is being conducted virtually, you should log in about three to five minutes early.
6. What do I wear to an interview?
Business-casual attire is best. This gives you a professional look and a comfortable feel so that you will be a bit more relaxed in the interview.
7. Can I become an MD after being a PA?
Yes, PA to MD is common and a good career path if you so choose. Just keep in mind that PA can be a rewarding career itself and you should decide what is best for your future. Also, you should not discuss this in your interview. PA schools are looking for future PAs, not future MDs, so if you are contemplating making that change later, it’s best not to bring it up in the interview.
8. How do I deal with nervousness in the interview?
Prevention is the best cure; deal with nerves before they hit by studying, practicing, and doing mock interviews. Confidence will cure much of your nervousness. On the day, just focus on your answers.
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