The Physician Assistant Life

Why Do You Want to be a Physician Assistant?

Have you spent hours thinking about your answer to this question?

Do you have the perfect pre-formulated answer just waiting to deliver;  hook, line and sinker?

Or, maybe you are approaching this question like I did:

You have a pretty good idea of what you want to say and figure "the inspiration will find itself when the time comes".

News flash... Your answer to this question probably sucks

Lets face it, the majority of the answers to this question are boring, soundbite-ish ripostes we have standing at the ready, prepped for the moment we will have to regurgitate our canned answers.  Because they are:

  • easy to repeat
  • trance-like
  • and semi-conscious

But let's think about this question for a moment.

In reality, it's a broad, salient inquiry that any answer would suffice.

Why do I want to be a Physician Assistant?

It is like asking why they like to dance, draw, open the door for someone in a wheelchair, or eat a powdered donut.

For most of us, these questions are hard to answer. It is just part of who we are... Ingrained in our nature.

I mean, who wouldn't want to be a PA? We get to help people! (P.S you might not want to use that as your answer) 

Also, as an applicant to PA school, it is difficult to predict if you will actually like being a PA.  Yes, shadowing a PA can be helpful, finding volunteer and healthcare experience, or maybe even watching old episodes of Grey's Anatomy on Netflix.

It is a lot easier to predict whether you want a powdered doughnut... Just take a bite.

So in order to answer this question, and you must answer this question, you are going to have to dig deep.

There is a better way to answer this dangerous query - Change the Question Altogether

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The next time you are asked why do you want to be a Physician Assistant don't just give them your regurgitated pre-rehearsed answer, instead tell them what you are passionate about.

"Why do you want to be a PA?" asks the stranger:

"On a recent trip to Haiti I held the hand of a small child as she struggled to take her very last breath. She was dying from Tuberculosis. I sat and stroked her tiny, frail arms. I massaged her back and watched as her breath slowed and her heart finally came to a stop. Beside me sat her mother, helpless. It was in her eyes that I knew I had found my calling" 

Message: I'm passionate about decreasing the scope of human suffering, I understand what is truly important in life, I have witnessed first hand the full extent of the human condition.

At this point, you'll likely get one of two responses:

  1. a sigh of relief from the admissions committee.
  2. an acceptance letter and the conversation will veer in a more meaningful direction.

Eventually you will both be able to discuss the things you enjoy. Not the products of canned, empty responses.

Why do you want to be a ________ ?

When I accepted my first "corporate" job as a sous-chef  at a high-end restaurant chain (OK not exactly, I was flipping Whopper's at Burger King) I was 16.

When they asked me why I wanted to work at Burger King my answer was simple... I really needed the money!

Is there a difference between KFC and Taco Bell, or Burger King? Probably not , and my employer knew this. So I got the job, because they needed someone to flip Whopper's, there was very little competition and I didn't appear to have scabies.

Applying for PA School is different because a lot of people want to be a Physician Assistant.

So Why Do You Want To Be a Physician Assistant?

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When I answered this question in my PA school application essay 8 years ago it came down to a patients hands.

Were a patients hands really the reason I wanted to be a PA? Yes.

What do hands have to do with PA school?  It was in this patients hands that I saw everything that made me passionate about medicine:

- The beauty and complexity of passing time, the love of family, the tenderness of a moment.

I knew I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to this cause!

You already know why you want to be a PA, and it is more than money, lifestyle, and prestige.

The best answer will not come from a list, it will not come from a book but it will come from life experience and passion. So start there.

  • Think about an experience that embodies what you know about a career in healthcare.
  • The way it feels to connect with another human being on a truly personal level.
  • What you are passionate about.

It is my belief that this is why we all want to be Physician Assistants.

Change the question, to one of passion and the rest becomes icing on the cake of a proverbial doughnut!

(P.S: My 6-year-old daughter designed the T-shirt at the beginning of this post.  If you would like, you can Purchase it here on Cafe Press (boys) or (girls) - all funds are being diverted to her future PA school college fund 🙂 )

Best,

Stephen Pasquini PA-C

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