Interview

17 Physician Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a physician assistant, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

From diagnosing and treating illnesses to prescribing medication, physician assistants (PAs) are an integral part of the health care team. They work under the direction of a licensed physician and can provide a wide range of health care services.

To become a PA, you need to complete an accredited PA program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. But before you can even interview for a PA job, you need to know how to answer physician assistant interview questions.

In this guide, you’ll find questions and answers that will help you prepare for your interview. You’ll learn about the types of questions you can expect to be asked and what types of answers the hiring manager is looking for.

Are you comfortable working with patients who have a wide range of medical issues?

This question can help interviewers determine if you have the experience and skills to work with a variety of patients. Use your answer to highlight how you’ve worked with different types of patients in the past.

Example: “I am comfortable working with all kinds of patients, as I’ve had that opportunity throughout my career. In my last role, I was responsible for helping patients who were recovering from surgery, those who were experiencing chronic pain and others who were sick or injured. I enjoy being able to use my skills to help people regardless of their medical situation.”

What are some of the most important qualities for a successful physician assistant?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the qualities they look for in a successful physician assistant. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention some of the skills and traits that are listed on your resume or application.

Example: “I believe that one of the most important qualities for a successful physician assistant is communication. As a physician assistant, we work with many different healthcare professionals, so I feel it’s essential to be able to communicate effectively with everyone. Another quality I think is important is organization. In my experience, being organized has helped me stay focused and complete tasks more efficiently.”

How would you handle a situation where you disagreed with your supervising physician?

As a physician assistant, you’ll work with many different physicians. It’s likely that you’ll have disagreements from time to time. Employers ask this question to make sure you can handle conflict in the workplace and still maintain your professionalism. In your answer, explain how you would approach the situation respectfully. Explain that you would try to resolve the issue quickly so it doesn’t affect patient care.

Example: “I’ve had disagreements with my supervising physician before. I always feel uncomfortable when it happens because I respect them as my superior. However, if I disagree with something they say or do, I will speak up respectfully. I know that sometimes we just have different opinions about what is best for patients. I would tell them why I disagreed and offer an alternative solution. If they are open to hearing my opinion, we may be able to find a compromise.”

What is your process for keeping up-to-date on the latest medical research and treatments?

This question can help the interviewer determine how passionate you are about your career and how much effort you put into staying current with medical advancements. Your answer should include a few examples of ways you stay informed, such as reading journals or attending conferences.

Example: “I am always looking for new articles to read in my field. I subscribe to several journals that publish research on new treatments and medications. I also attend at least one conference per year where I learn more about the latest developments in medicine. Attending these events helps me feel confident when working with patients who have complex conditions.”

Provide an example of a time when you helped a patient manage their pain.

This question can help the interviewer understand how you use your skills to benefit patients. Use examples from your experience as a physician assistant that show how you helped patients manage their pain and what methods you used to do so.

Example: “When I worked with my previous patient who had chronic back pain, I would start by asking them about their symptoms and how they felt. Then, I would perform an examination of their back to see if there were any areas of concern. After this, I would discuss treatment options with the patient and create a plan for them to follow at home. This included exercises and stretches they could do to help relieve their pain.”

If a patient was nervous about seeing a physician for the first time, how would you help them feel more comfortable?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills and ability to help patients feel comfortable. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a specific situation in which you helped a nervous patient feel more at ease.

Example: “When I first started working as a physician assistant, I had the opportunity to work with a patient who was very nervous about seeing their doctor for the first time. I tried my best to make them feel comfortable by asking them questions about themselves and making sure they knew that I would always be there if they needed anything. After our appointment, they told me how much they appreciated my care and attention.”

What would you do if you noticed a coworker making a mistake during a medical procedure?

This question can help interviewers understand how you work with others and your ability to communicate. When answering, it can be helpful to mention a specific situation in which you noticed a coworker making a mistake and what steps you took to address the issue.

Example: “When I was working as an assistant for Dr. Smith, one of my coworkers accidentally gave a patient the wrong dosage of medication. I immediately informed Dr. Smith so that she could correct the error before the patient left the office. She thanked me for bringing up the mistake and told me that if I ever saw something like this again, I should let her know right away.”

How well do you think you would fit into a team-based medical practice?

Teamwork is an important skill for physician assistants to have. The interviewer may ask this question to see if you are a good fit for their team and the medical practice overall. Use your answer to highlight any teamwork skills that you possess, such as communication, collaboration or problem-solving.

Example: “I think I would fit well into a team-based medical practice because of my ability to communicate with others effectively. In my previous role, I was often tasked with communicating information from doctors to patients and vice versa. I also feel like I am a great collaborator who can work alongside other members of the healthcare team to find solutions to problems.”

Do you have any experience working with children?

Working with children is a common responsibility for physician assistants. Employers ask this question to make sure you have experience working with patients of all ages and backgrounds. In your answer, share about any previous experiences working with children. Explain how you helped the child or their family. Share an example of a time when you were successful in helping someone.

Example: “I worked as a pediatric PA at my last job. I assisted the primary care physician by taking patient histories and performing physical exams on children. I also performed diagnostic tests like blood draws and urinalysis. I am comfortable working with children of all ages. I enjoy making them feel comfortable during their appointments. I always try to explain procedures to them so they understand what we are doing.”

When performing a physical examination, what is your process for examining the head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, throat, neck, chest, lungs, heart, abdomen, spine, arms, hands, fingers, hips, legs, feet and toes?

This question is a way for the interviewer to assess your knowledge of physical examinations and how you apply it in practice. In your answer, provide details about what you do during each part of the examination process.

Example: “I begin by examining the patient’s head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, throat, neck, chest, lungs, heart, abdomen, spine, arms, hands, fingers, hips, legs and feet. I then examine their toes. During this time, I am looking for any abnormalities or changes that may indicate an underlying condition.”

We want to improve our patient satisfaction rates. What ideas do you have to help us do this?

Patient satisfaction is an important part of the healthcare industry. Interviewers want to know that you understand this and have ideas for how to improve their patient satisfaction rates. In your answer, explain what factors contribute to high or low patient satisfaction rates and give examples of ways you’ve helped improve these rates in previous positions.

Example: “I think one of the most important things we can do to improve our patient satisfaction rates is by making sure they feel comfortable with us before they even arrive at the office. I always make sure to greet patients as soon as they walk into the office and introduce myself. This helps them feel more comfortable when they’re ready to see me. Another way I help improve our patient satisfaction rates is by being friendly but professional during all appointments. I try my best to listen to patients and address any concerns they may have.”

Describe your process for writing a medical prescription.

This question is an opportunity to show your interviewer that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to write prescriptions. When answering this question, it can be helpful to describe a specific prescription you’ve written in the past and how you completed the process.

Example: “When writing a medical prescription, I first make sure that I understand the patient’s symptoms and concerns. Then, I review my notes from our conversation and any other information about their diagnosis. Next, I look up the medication I’m prescribing and read through its instructions and side effects. Finally, I fill out the prescription form with the required information and hand it off to the physician for approval.”

What makes you a good fit for our practice?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your personality and how you view yourself. It’s important to be honest in this answer, but also show that you have researched the practice and understand what they are looking for in an employee.

Example: “I think I would make a good fit for your practice because of my ability to work well with others. I am always willing to help out when needed, and I enjoy being part of a team. I also feel like I could contribute to the medical knowledge of the practice by sharing my own experiences as a PA.”

Which medical fields do you want to specialize in?

This question is a great way for the interviewer to learn more about your career goals and how you plan to achieve them. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention any medical fields that you have experience in or are passionate about.

Example: “I would love to specialize in pediatric care because I find children so fascinating. I think they’re such little miracles, and I enjoy being able to make their lives better. Another area of medicine I’m interested in is emergency medicine. I’ve always been fascinated by the fast-paced nature of the work and the ability to save lives.”

What do you think is the most challenging part of being a physician assistant?

This question can help the interviewer get to know you better and understand what your thoughts are on this career. It can also show them how you might handle challenges that come up in your work as a physician assistant. When answering, it can be helpful to think about some of the most challenging aspects of being a physician assistant and explain why they’re challenging for you or how you’ve overcome these challenges in the past.

Example: “The most challenging part of being a physician assistant is when I have to tell patients bad news. This is something that comes with the job, but I always try to make sure I’m compassionate and empathetic when delivering any kind of news to a patient. I find that if I take my time and speak slowly, I can usually calm down even the most anxious patients.”

How often do you perform physical examinations?

This question can help the interviewer determine your experience with physical examinations and how comfortable you are performing them. You can answer this question by describing a time when you performed a physical examination, including what type of exam it was and what steps you took to perform it.

Example: “In my previous role as a physician assistant, I performed physical exams on patients at least once per day. These exams included routine check-ups, annual exams and any other times that a patient requested an exam. During these exams, I would ask questions about their current health status, perform a physical exam and review lab results.”

There is a shortage of physician assistants in the area. How would you convince a physician to hire you?

This question is a great way to show your communication skills and how you can convince someone to hire you. When answering this question, it’s important to highlight the value that you would bring to the physician’s practice.

Example: “I know there are many physician assistants in this area, but I believe my skill set makes me an excellent candidate for this position. My background as a registered nurse gives me valuable medical knowledge and experience working with patients. I also have extensive training in assisting physicians, which means I am prepared to work independently when needed. If hired, I would be happy to assist your team of physicians.”

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