Introduction: A Simple Question with a Complex Answer
"Can you tell me what a PA is?"
This is one of the most common questions posed during a PA school interview and one you would think is easy to answer.
Yet, even with my extensive 18 years of experience in the field, I find myself carefully pondering each word when asked to define the role. This seemingly simple question often trips up even the most prepared applicants, but why is this the case?
A Physician Assistant/Associate (PA) plays a crucial role in the healthcare field, performing a multitude of responsibilities and services. Our job is not only defined by medical procedures and diagnoses but also by the empathetic connections we build with patients, the commitment we make to their wellness, and our dedication to education and advocacy.
This blog post aims to help you navigate this common interview question by deep-diving into the essence of a PA and offering guidance on how to answer this question in a personally meaningful and authentic way during an interview.
Understanding the Role of a PA
A PA is a licensed medical professional who works in collaboration with doctors to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and sometimes perform surgeries. But our responsibilities extend far beyond medical procedures. We are interpreters of complex medical information, advocates for our patients, and educators of preventative healthcare.
As a PA, the essence of our job is about the connections we build with our patients, our commitment to their wellness, and the empathetic approach we bring to our practice. Our role goes beyond the confines of the clinic, reaching out into the communities we serve and touching the lives of patients and their families.
According to the AAPA: "PAs (physician associates/physician assistants) are licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting. Trusted, rigorously educated and trained healthcare professionals, PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice." - The AAPA "What is a PA"
So, what is a PA? It's more than just a medical role. It's a vocation that requires a blend of medical expertise, empathy, and a deep desire to improve the lives of patients.
Answering the Question: How to Articulate What a PA Is?
Once you grasp the multifaceted nature of the PA role, you're halfway there. However, it is not enough to just understand what a PA does. You need to express this understanding with personal conviction and emotional resonance in your interview. Here are some tips to guide you:
1. Personalize Your Answer:
Tailor your response to reflect your unique experiences and perspectives. You can describe how your work or volunteering in healthcare settings gave you an understanding of a PA's duties and responsibilities.
If you've shadowed a PA, talk about what you observed and learned, how the experience has shaped your views on the role, and how it solidified your decision to pursue this career path. Personal anecdotes can help make your answer more vivid and relatable, demonstrating that you understand the day-to-day realities and rewards of being a PA.
2. Covney Passion and Enthusiasm for the Role:
Expressing genuine passion and enthusiasm for the PA role will show that you're not just knowledgeable about the job but are also emotionally invested in it. Your nonverbal cues can significantly influence the way your message is received.
For example, maintaining good eye contact can convey confidence and sincerity, while an expressive tone of voice can reflect enthusiasm. A relaxed but upright posture can show that you're comfortable and confident, and using your hands to emphasize key points can make your response more engaging.
3. Stay Authentic:
Be genuine and truthful. Remember, your interviewers are not only listening to what you say but also assessing your credibility and sincerity. Any discrepancies can lead to doubts about your authenticity.
4. Maintain Open and Positive Body Language:
Establishing trust is crucial in any communication. Use eye contact, open gestures, and good posture to demonstrate your confidence and sincerity.
Answering the question, "What is a PA?" is more than delivering a well-rehearsed definition. It's about understanding the depth of the role, articulating that understanding effectively, and relating it to your personal journey toward becoming a PA.
You're not just demonstrating your knowledge but also revealing your passion and readiness for a profession that beautifully intertwines science, empathy, and healing.
By successfully answering this question, you not only navigate a potential stumbling block in your PA school interview but also affirm your commitment to a rewarding career in patient care.
Remember, the interview is not just about your grades or essay. It's not about providing the answer you think the interviewers want to hear; it's about you as a person, and it's about giving an answer that is a true reflection of your understanding and appreciation of the PA role. Make that connection, and you'll stand out from the rest.
Need help nailing down your answer? We are happy to help in a safe and supportive environment with a one-on-one mock PA school interview.
View all posts in this series
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- 5 Things I’ve Learned Going Into My Fourth Physician Assistant Application Cycle
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- PA School Mock Interviews: Prepare with a LIVE, Recorded Video Interview
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