Have you spent hours thinking about your answers to why you want to be a PA?
Do you have the perfect pre-formulated answer just waiting to deliver; hook, line, and sinker?
Or, maybe you are approaching this question as 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
Let's 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
- 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 you 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.Maintaining energy and enthusiasm becomes increasingly more difficult as time goes on, but it can be done. Remember WHY you want to be a PA, and never let that go. —Deborah SummersClick To Tweet
There is a better way to answer this dangerous query - Change the Question Altogether.
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:
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:
- A sigh of relief from the admissions committee.
- 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 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?
When I answered this question in my PA school application essay eight years ago, it came down to a patient's hands.
Were a patient's hands the reason I wanted to be a PA? Yes.
What do hands have to do with PA school? It was in this patient's 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 originate from a book (affiliate link), 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 genuinely personal level.
- What are you passionate about?
I believe that this is why we all want to be physician assistants.
Change the question to one of passion, and the rest becomes the 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 🙂 )
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
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I am going to be 47 by the time I apply to PA school. Is this going to hinder my chances to getting into a PA school?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Being 47 at the time of application will work to your advantage. Just make sure your prerequisites are up-to-date (many schools have a limit to how old courses can be often 5-10 years depending on the course you can see what the ADCOM’s have to say here https://www.thepalife.com/pa-school-prerequisites-questions-answers/#expire). Here is a post from Michelle Roush who made it into PA school at 42. I went to PA school with classmates in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. If you want it, go for it!
Brittany Thompson says
I’m curious to know what if I dont have an experience that lead me to The profession. I have an experience but it isn’t necessarily dealing with a patient. I was in a program called bench to beside . I thought I already had my career in order and then I came across PA and it was like destiny. The lifestyle I wanted to live matched the career … With that being said how I can I write and eye catching personal statement on that ?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Many schools do not require direct hands on patient care experience. But those that do, will require that this be a part of your application and they hold strongly to their convictions. It is always a plus to have some hours of direct patient care experience and if you are on the line with the experience you have now I would recommend reaching out and finding some ways to work directly with patients especially if this becomes a roadblock during this application cycle. For personal statement advice, I will direct you to our editing service. We will be happy to work with you on your essay to find the best way to discuss the background and experiences you have. Everyone has a diverse and interesting life with plenty of experiences to draw from, the key is expressing this logically and in a way that gets the admissions committee’s attention.
3-5 years, haha! (not 35 years)
➢ I want to become a Physician Assistant because I would like to be able to provide healthcare in a team setting. A PA is part of the healthcare team where everyone works together in providing the absolute best for their patient. The PA profession is different from the other members on that team in that there is a lot of diversity in the field, and the field allows me to see other fields if I wish to pursue them. You are never locked into a set field. There is also an aspect of the amount of schooling would go into being a doctor over being a PA. PA school is 2-3 years depending on your program of choice while medical school is 4 years, 35 years of residency as well as 2-3 years in a fellowship if you want to go down that road. This would allow me to practice medicine sooner rather than much later. Lifestyle is also an important factor when deciding a career. I plan to be a father that is devoted to his children. I understand that PA school as well as when you are out there on the field working that you have many long and rigorous hours, however the PA field allows you to have the best of both worlds. You can work, practice medicine and give back to people while at the same time you can give back to your family life.
is this a good response to the question of “Why do you want to become a PA as opposed to a MD?”
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Yes, this is a very good technical answer… I think it summarizes why most (if not all) of us chose the PA profession. This is also an answer the admissions directors hear day in and day out so consider adding a personal story. I would say there are always two layers underlying the majority of our decisions. Similar to right and left hemispheres of our brain. The logical (left side) – shorter time in school, lifestyle, diversity of practice settings, cost, etc. etc. and then there is the artistic/creative (right side) – try answering it from both sides and see what you can come up with.
That’s a very heart warming response, however, it doesn’t distinguish why you want to be a PA from a physician or nurse or therapist or surgeon etc. All healthcare professionals are there to provide quality care and help patients. The interviewees next question will be, “ok that’s great but why PA school”. An answer needs to highlight the unique aspects of the PA profession and how that aligns with personal aspirations.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Yes Aubrey, you are right. Why don’t you want to be a doctor? Because it is 4 years of graduate medical training, followed by 3-5 years of residency and piles of student debt, not to mention the long hours and strain it can place on interpersonal relationships. Why don’t you want to be a nurse? Because while working for 4 years in the hospital I had a chance to work alongside all types of health professionals. The job of a PA resonated with me. I like to solve problems and create treatment plans. And although nurses are certainly problem solvers and care deeply for their patients I see myself in the role of primary care provider and look forward to developing a strong team with my supervising physician to provide the best care possible for my patients. As a PA I can complete my didactic and clinical training in 2 years and begin working immediately, I have plenty of autonomy along with the team aspect of working alongside a physician and other healthcare provider. Unlike an NP I have greater flexibility to move within my profession.
I think we all are probably “in it” for the same reasons, the admissions committee will want to hear your answers to these questions, you are right. But you will also need to combine this with the more human and “emotional” aspect. And you are right, you will need to be able to answer both the “why” and the “WHY” to be taken seriously.
I just got offered an interview at a school in my hometown. I’m really excited about it, but I’m not very confident in my answers because I’m afraid it will be interpreted in a way that will make me seem unappealing as an applicant. Is it bad to say that I don’t want to be a doctor because the schedule is too intense? That I think a PA is a more family-oriented profession because I plan to have children and I want to be able to raise them while also working and helping others? I don’t want to come off as lazy because I don’t want to do those extra 2 years + residency for an MD degree. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciate!
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
I would focus on the reasons why you want to be a PA (in comparison to why you don’t want to be a doctor), and it is perfectly fine to comment on how you find PA training and time/education/debt requirements to be in line with your life and long-term professional goals. Trust me, everyone sitting in that room feel exactly the same way as you do 🙂 Just work on your wording and come up with an answer that you feel comfortable with. Post one here and I will happy to give you some feedback.
Thank you for the feedback, Stephen! I have been thinking about what I want to say and this is what I have come up with.
I want to be a physician assistant so that I can help in providing patient care for underserved areas where there is a deficit of primary care providers. PAs are crucial components of the health care system in that they can provide the same care as the doctor where there aren’t enough doctors and I want to take part in aiding this crisis in the US. I also appreciate the versatility that PAs have in being able to work in several areas and work with a set schedule. I would like to be a mom and be able to be home for my kids while they are growing up, and the PA profession fits the lifestyle that I want. In addition, I find that experience is an essential component of what makes health care providers so good at what they do, and I believe that becoming a PA will give me this experience by allowing me to work closely with patients in all areas that I work in.
I am so grateful to have gotten two interview offers so far, and I want to prepare as best as I can. Thanks again for offering to look at my response for me! Your blog has such helpful advice on it and it will surely be a great to use as a PA-C.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Emilia – I think this is a wonderful, heart-felt and well thought out response. It demonstrates some of the best parts of our profession and shows you have thought deeply about your role in it.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to respond to my comment! I will let you know if I receive good news after my interview in 4 weeks. Your feedback means a lot.
Bibi, Figueroa says
Get as much information as I needed for whan I have to sit with the board to anwet this question