This week also features two questions. Thanks to Abigail for e-mailing me!! I love when you guys send me writing topics and questions you are asked at interviews, so keep it up!
Q:What patient population do you least like working with gathering your patient care hours?
What are they looking for
- That you aren’t going to bash anyone.
- Compassion (that you have it, duh!)
What to avoid saying
- Anything negative.
- A statement that is going to cluster or segregate a group of people. (Disclaimer: the statements below are not things that I would say and in no way represent how I feel. They are simply a way to give examples.)
- For Example:
- “Working with pain patients was the worst, constantly ringing the bell to ask for more pain medications and complaining”
- “Diabetics who are non-compliant.”
- “Psych patients, it’s not even like they have a REAL problem. Just suck it up”
What to say
- You really enjoyed the diversity (of whatever population(s) you worked with)
- Mention that the diversity of medicine you were exposed to really makes you look forward to clinical rotations and learning more about all areas of medicine.
- Every patient is a person first and that their disease does not define them.
- Certain qualites can present challenges such as non-compliance, but it is all part of working in medicine and that you look forward to growing as a person and future provider.
Q: What specialty would you least like to work with as a PA?
What are they looking for
- To see if you’ve made up your mind about what area you think you want to work in
- If you are open-minded about learning
- If they are a program focused on underserved populations/family care if you have interest in that area
What to avoid saying
- You are “certain” you want to work in a specific area.
- Saying anything negative about a particular area of medicine.
What to say
- Mention what you liked while shadowing, but DO NOT commit
- For example: ” I really liked the role and responsibilities of Emergency Department and Cardio Thoracic Surgery PA’s; however, I know there is a lot for me to learn and many areas of medicine to gain knowledge and exposure.
- You cannot be certain because you worked in a small subset of medicine (wherever it might have been) and that you look forward to figuring out what specialty you want to begin your journey in medicine.
The PA career is incredibly competitive to enter. Despite the number of programs out there and more popping up every year, your chances of acceptance are 1-2%. For example the year I applied to Pitt there were well over 1,000 applicants and 40 seats. THAT IS CRAZY TO ME! It makes me so thankful that I was able to earn acceptance, participate in such an amazing career and now help and interact with some really great Pre-PA students!
Q: Why should we choose you over other applicants?
What are they looking for?
- You can demonstrate that you are confident and have earned the right to be in their program.
- You can clearly and concisely state why you are an excellent candidate
- You’ve prepared
What to avoid
- Not having an answer.
- Being tentative. If you hesitate this demonstrates that you haven’t thought about this question or even worse that you don’t know how to answer it.
- A candidate who sits that and hims-and-haughs like “well….”, “ummmm”, or “I think….maybe…” Cut the crap say why you’ve earned this! Someone who hesitates or looks like they can’t give an answer isn’t someone an admissions committee correlates with a successful PA student.
What to say
- I was not asked this questions; but, I did prepare for it. My answers would have been as follows:
- My tenacity. By and far my first quality that sets me apart. I risked a lot to take this course. I also worked at times 4 different jobs to make ends meet and build experience and boost my application. I did whatever possible to be successful in meeting this goal and I will demonstrate the same traits as a PA student and practicing professional.
- My energy. I bring a great amount of energy into every situation I’m in and will put that energy towards becoming the best provider possible.
- Other great answers may include:
- Diverse background
- Focus on wellness
- Lots of time spent with underserved population
- Substantial amount of clinical experience
- Master’s Degree
In addition to being asked to simulate an HPI with a standardized patient (If you don’t know what I am referencing see my last blog post here) a great number of programs are employing the MMI (multiple mini interviews) and also asking you to complete tasks. Sometimes odd tasks.
So, why are they doing this and what are they looking for in their candidates?
PA school is stressful. Interviews are stressful (no matter how you cut it). What better to do than to see how prospective students can react to a stressful situation. Sound familiar? Sure does, admissions committees are taking the concept of behavioral interviewing and making it a reality. The idea here is that if you can handle stress well during the interview, that behavior trait will transfer to PA school.
2. Common Courtesy
When you are stressed or someone corrects you, how do you react? During my time as a student ambassador, I saw prospective students literally freak out when they didn’t understand a task or someone wasn’t following their directives. Be kind and polite. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT freak out. This is a huge red flag to anyone (students, faculty, adjunct professors) evaluating you.
3. Innovative Thinking and Effort
So, you don’t remember all the cranial nerves or parts of the kidney or understand how to tell someone to suture. Don’t panic. Stay calm and try and dig deep for anything you can remember about the task they are presenting. If they give you 5 minutes to complete the task use that five minutes. If you’ve never explained to someone to suture think about basic principles that might be important. Its ok to say, “You know I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to do my best”. This says that you can take on challenge in a positive way. You might go on to say something like “I would think someone would need to wash their hands and create a clean environment to complete the procedure”. So, maybe you don’t know what “sterile field” or “breaking sterile field” means. Or the different types of sutures. But, maybe you can say ” Well, the type of wound might matter as to how someone sutures”. Keep it basic and simply TRY. I cannot stress enough, remain calm.
4. Following Directions
A large part of PA school is being able to follow directions, complete tasks on time and multitask. Programs want to know that you can complete a task they tell you to complete, in a specific manner.
5. Action Speaks Louder Than Words
You are what you do. History repeats itself. However you want to say it, y’all get what I mean. You are what you do (just like you are what you eat haha 🙂 Show them you can handle stress, be kind and follow directions. Don’t sweat it if you don’t know exactly what they are talking about, respond appropriately to the task and you will be just fine!
I came across a post recently in a Facebook pre-pa group that some interviews are asking students basically to complete a HPI (History of Present Illness). Now, if you did your patient care experience in mental health (because thats where you had a degree) you might find yourself fumbling. So, if you run in to a situation that asks you to “talk to a patient about what is going on with them and give a diagnosis” I’ve got your basics covered!
What is an HPI?
- History of Present Illness
- Why is the patient coming in to see you and the story that goes along with it!
- Start with a “chief complaint”
- This is usually something obvious such as abdominal pain, chest pain, fever, rash, red eye, sore throat, cough, etc
- There are 7 vital aspects of the “HPI”
- How long has this been going on?
- Where is the location of the symptom
- For complaints like abdominal or chest pain ask the patient (especially if child) to point with one finger where it is the worst
- Does the pain/symptom travel somewhere else besdies where it starts?
- Describe what is going on
- Is the pain sharp, dull, throbbing
- When they have difficulty swallowing is it solids, liquids, etc
- The good old “on a scale of 1 to 10…10 being the worst and 1 being very little”
- What makes symptoms worse
- What makes symptoms better
- Associated Manifestations
- Depends on the chief complaint
- Abdominal pain: diarrhea, constipation, fever, chills
- Chest pain: diaphoresis, lightheadedness, palpitations, shortness of breath
- Fever: Rash, cough, urinary symptoms (dysuria, frequency), recent travel, UTD on immunizaitons
- Cough: is it productive or dry, short of breath, fever, chest pain