Tag Archives: pa school

What Specialty is Right For You?

Wow.  I feel like this is a huge one for me– and also will display a lot of how I have grown and developed as a person, student and now medical provider.  I am no where near the person I was in 2013– I am such a better version of myself and I grow, develop and learn everyday.

Before I went into PA school I was “strictly surgery…actual medicine is so boring and for weaklings”.  I also thought medicine was black and white (ha!) When asked at the beginning of PA school I was specifically strictly ortho or trauma surgery.  I actually did my elective rotation in trauma surgery. We were surveyed and when “orthopedics” was prompted I quickly raised my hand.  For anyone who knows me– you know I am enthusiastic and passionate about anything I do.

During didactic year we went through our system based modules and I was in for the surprise of my life. I slowly but surely became more interested in the art of medicine. When our module for women’s health came along, I never expected to love it.  I did.  Our teacher for this module is also the shit. Rosa is one of those people who has a gift to teach.  Everything clicked pretty well for me. I was hooked– like immediately.  I e-mailed our clinical coordinator that day and asked if I could please be placed with her on my OB/GYN rotation.  It was my 3rd rotation and hands down without a doubt my best rotation.  I struggled clinically A LOT on my rotations– my medical background was not strong and taking histories and putting the puzzle together simply took me a bit longer to grasp than others.  And that is OK– because I progressed. Anyways, I fell in love with women’s health here is how and why and how I have decided to pursue this career.

  1. Independent Practice

    Going through PA school and rotations helped me realize I wanted more collaboration as needed as opposed to supervision.  I also realized that the operating room just wasn’t for me (shout out to Dr. Opacic who called that shit first year of PA school– I get it now). I can’t describe it– I just simply don’t like the environment.  Plus I need frequent feeding and a sterile environment does NOT allow for that 🙂
    I wanted my own patient load.  I wanted to be responsible for treating and seeing my own patients– basically I desire to practice to the fullest extent of my license.

  2. Procedures

    I want to be able to do my own procedures, too.  IUD’s, Nexplanon, colopo’s, LEEPs– whatever I can get trained in and be competent in to do on my own.

  3. Some GYN’s also provide primary care

    I don’t want to lose my roots and ability to practice general medicine. PA’s are trained generally and I always want to try and keep a little bit of that flexibility whether it is in my every day practice or in a per diem job or volunteering at a clinic.

  4. The patient population

    Sometimes we need to figure out what we don’t want, in order to be certain of the things we do want.  I’ve decided this is true of everything in life from relationships to medical specialties.  I have spent almost 3 years practicing general medicine of varying acuity levels.  Medical consults, Hospitalist, Urgent Care and Family Practice.  Here’s what I know I DO NOT want to see everyday: really sick people, patients who have not “tried anything at home”, narcotics– I do NOT want to deal with pain management, children– especially babies (I swear I’m not that evil), people who have a runny nose who think it is an emergency (it’s not the person with the GSW to the head is), etc etc.
    Which leads me to well ok well why women’s health then? No one (ok 99% of people) do not show up for an invasive vaginal exam if there really isn’t something wrong. Most patients are able to provide you some semblance of a decent HPI because when something is wrong with your vagina you pay attention to it. They are typically somewhat on the healthier side.  The reason I say this is that if you have an awareness of “needing your annual exam” chances are you pay even just a little bit of attention to your health/wellness.

  5. Setting and work/life balance

    Are you looking to work in a hospital, ED, operating room or clinic?  What type of hours do you want to work? Do you want a set schedule, shift work, do you hate working nights, etc etc.
    I am NOT a night person. I worked nights and it was not easy for me.  I love being up at 4:30am. I love my workout before work and I want a job that allows me to do these things 🙂
    As I said before I do not want to be in a OR– or at least to this point in my career I have not found a position that has made me go “owe I wanna do that!”  Never say never, but I know right now it isn’t in my cards.
    12 hour shifts are also not up my alley.  To me it was like– ok I’ll do EVERYTHING that needs done in my life 7 days from now when I have a day off.  Simply not for me.  Some people love it.

    All things to consider!

Life as a Traveling PA

Recently I have had A LOT of questions about becoming a traveling or “locums” PA.  I decided to address everyone’s questions and tell everyone a little about my experiences to help out! Please leave additional question in the comments section and I will do my best to address them 🙂

FAQ:

1. Can I do this as a new grad?

You can.  However I imagine there would be pros and cons to this.  As a traveler/locum you are pretty much expected to go in somewhere, adjust to the EHR (electronic health record) if you have never used it before and roll like you’ve been there before.  So– there isn’t a lot of room for you to learn how to treat patients.
I tell most people that if you feel like you had great patient care experience, clinical experience and/or clinical rotations and if you can treat patients without feeling like you need to ask a lot of questions go for it.  I was a mental health therapist before being a PA and didn’t feel like I had strong rotations so it wouldn’t have been a great choice for me.
Second, expect to work in the “less desirable” areas or specialties.  I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but there aren’t a lot of people who wanna work in the middle of no where in North Dakota in psychiatry. BUT– if you take that job and get something on your resume it makes finding your next position a lot easier.  You have bargaining room.  Also, don’t expect the high-end of the pay spectrum (you would likely– most likely still be making more than anyone you graduated with).

2. What is the pay like?

It’s good.
I am unable to talk specifics, but it is definitely more than I was making as a new grad anywhere else.
You are paid hourly and always– ALWAYS high ball people.  The money is there.

3. What specialties can I work in?

It depends on what you are looking for.  As a new grad– see above. It also depends on what you have experience in.  You will always get more money in fields you have experience.  However, if you want to try something new and are ok with taking a little less money you might be able to try something new.

4. My friend/significant other and I want to travel together can we get an assignment in the same location?

Sometimes, yes.  Or it could be relatively close– or in between so you could share housing. But I would think with some positions this would be possible.

5. How do I find a company to work with?

NALTO is the National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations. This is basically the BBB for travelers/locum providers.  It is to protect you and the organization who is placing you from anyone getting treated like crap (for lack of better words)

6. Who finds your housing?

Your company has an entire department that is responsible for finding and paying for your housing.  And YES you can bring your dog =)  My nugget comes everywhere with me! I know some travel nurses who get a stipend and then find their housing– I haven’t heard or encountered this as a provider.

7. What about malpractice/licensing/credentialing?

Again, your company should have an entire department for this– if they don’t you’re with the wrong people.  I don’t lift a finger for any of this.  Make sure they cover “tail” insurance.

8. Can you pick your sites?

Yep.  I don’t go anywhere or do anything I don’t want to.  I’m an “independent contractor” which means I DO WHAT I WANT.  =) It also means I file taxes as an independent contractor— get a good CPA.

9. How long is each assignment?

It’s totally up to you.  I like to take assignments about 3-6 months long.  Then it is worth it for me to move all my stuff and be kind of settled, explore the area and peace if I want to!  If you’re good you’ll be offered extensions or permanent positions.  PRO TIP: a lot of companies have clauses about taking permanent positions out of a locum position.  As in how long you have to be gone from the position or there are also “locum to permanent” positions out there too.

10. What about benefits (medical, dental, vision, 401k)?

The only company I have come across that offers this is COMP HEALTH.  I didn’t take an assignment with them yet, but all of the recruiters I talked to were really nice and I would consider taking a job with them.  Their hourly pay is a little less compared to other companies, but you do get benefits.  PRO TIP: they have a 6% 401k match which is pretty good.
To give you an idea of benefits cost per year here is what I have been in for:
Health insurance: 260/month with a 4,500 deductible
Vision: eye exam was like 180$ and my contacts $120 for about a year
Dental: x rays and cleaning cost me $240.
I recommend a health savings account. I’m also increasing my disability insurance to better reflect my current earnings which will cost me about $150 per month.

11. Are you re-reimbursed for transportation and travel?

YES.  You should not drop a DIME.

12. What are the PROS and CONS?

PROS: 
The pay, no rent or utilities.
You get to travel and see the country on someone else’s dime. You aren’t subject to all the “office politics” because you are an independent contractor.
If you don’t like something about the job— it has an expiration date.
CONS: 
You move a lot.
You don’t have control over “the little things”– see below —

13. Are there positions outside the USA?

No idea.  Not that I have found yet.

14. How does retirement work?

I have my own retirement funds as of right now.  Comp Health (which is a locum company) does offer benefits to their employees.  6% 401k match.
I recommend a good financial adviser.  I love mine if anyone needs a rec.

15. Can you get hired on permanently?

This depends on the company you are currently contracting through and their rules.  Some have clauses in your contract that state “cannot work for x,y,z for one year after end of contract” others don’t care and some positions are also noted as “locum with opportunity to transition to permanent”

16. Are there any PA schools that incorporate study abroad?

Yes, my friend is applying to one but I cannot remember which.

17. How does state licensing work?

Literally your company should do EVERYTHING for you.  You should not lift a finger. Or pay a dime.  And don’t let anyone ever tell you that you cannot work for another company because “they paid for your license” that is complete bullshit and a rep just trying to bully you into staying with them.  I highly recommend not working for someone who tells you this as they definitely don’t have your best interest at heart.

18. Do you get a living stipend?

No.  My costs are literally all covered.  I don’t pay rent or utilities.

19. What is the best way to prepare for this type of position before/during/after PA school?

Before: Get experience as a CNA, in a hospital, work as a nurse– some type of position that prepares you to be immersed in health care and you don’t feel like a fish out of water as you graduate.
During: Really really really focus on the plan of care.  Know what you would do for the patient.  Also know what you would do if something went wrong.
After: Apply? And be willing to take a job somewhere not ideally located or not in the perfect specialty

20. How competitive is being a locum?

There is a HUGE need.  This also is variable based on specialty.  I have done all hospital, family or urgent care med.

21. Can you change specialties?

Sure. It helps if you have prior experience in these specialties.

22. TAX DEDUCTIONS

So– you can turn A LOT of things in to tax deductions.
Flights
Food
Coffee
Health Insurance
Dental work
Vision
Hotels
Cell phone
Electronic purchases
Amazon Prime
Kindle
iPad
Anything that “is a cost of operating business”

23. Are certain areas in higher demand.

Yes Rural areas.

24. How does salary/payment work?

You are an hourly employee
If you don’t work you don’t get paid– but you are paid well and honestly it doesn’t matter.
You are paid through your company.

25. Is salary competitive?

Yes.  More than competitive. And again– always, always HIGH BALL on your offer for what you want compensation wise.

26. If you live in a state that NCCPA exempts you from taking PANRE and you travel to a state that requires it, do you have to take the PANRE before you go?

So, as a traveler I would no recommend going without NCCPA cert. Most locations want or require it.

27. Are you given additional training?

I have not been.  You need to be ready to step in to someones shoes for the most part.  But– I do think there are jobs out there that are longer contracts that may be willing to train if you took less pay or something.

Tid-Bits:

  • Keep copies of everything.  Especially the malpractice insurance you have with each company/position.  You will need this with each new position you apply for
  • Make a folder for each company/position you work in your e-mail.  Keep everything.
  • As for copies of proof of wherever you are living.  I recently lost my housing (which wasn’t my company’s fault but a total pain in the ass) Ask for every damn thing in writing.
  • If people are interested in how I cook/eat/count macros while living in a hotel let me know.  I’ll write a post all about that
  • Yes, your dog can come.
  • Get a file folder for all of your “business related” receipts

Things you don’t have control over that you probably haven’t thought about:

  • Your shower pressure
  • closet space
  • washer/dryer
  • neighbors
  • dishwasher
  • how long does the hot water last?
  • sometimes contracts fall out.  I swear all of the “this never ever happens” have happened to me.
  • Fridge space
  • THE MATTRESS.  I swear if any performance mattress companies out there want to sponsor me I AM IN.  My last 2 places had shitty soft mattresses and I have honestly thought about having one sent to me.
  • Concealed carry license.  I’m not trying to be political at all but if you have a concealed carry license for a weapon it will be a pain in the ass to transfer it so you can actually use it.
  • If you like your position and they want to hire you depending on your contract they might not be able to
  • Auto insurance.  As long as you are only in a location for 6 months you can use whatever permanent location you want.

Stuff you wouldn’t think of but need to know:

License plates.

Yea totally didn’t think about this.  There are a couple routes you can go.  You can sell your car or park your car somewhere and have your company rent you one.  Or you can say “eff it” and figure it out as you go– which is what I did because I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Nissan Rogue!!!!  My plates actually expire this month.  I am using a co-workers address in a county in California that doesn’t require smog inspection. What is tricky is that in order to change your drivers license address you normally need a lease, mortgage or utility bills to “PROVE” you live there.
Well I have none of those. So, what do you do?
The DMV also accepts bank statements.  So, I changed my investments and my bank statements to that address and I explain my situation and bring those documents.  That has worked with me in the past and hopefully when I go for my license plates and address update they change it for me!

Driving Insurance

I left my insurance under the town I lived in for my first travel assignment in Danville, PA because the rate is dirt cheap. You are “LEGAL” as long as you are only staying somewhere for 6 months. You don’t necessarily have to change your location.

Health Insurance

So, I haven’t had to deal with cross states yet.  I’m also for national health insurance (bring on competition and drive down rates hahahaha).  However, my guess is that moving to a different state would be a “qualifying event”

Voting

See my debacle regarding license plates!

Banking

I recently switched all of my regular banking with USAA (my dad was in Vietnam so I automatically qualify to have accounts with them).  I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend them.  They are so kind and always willing to help and EVERYTHING– EVERYTHING can be done on the internet or phone.

Breaking Down PA School Interview Questions X

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.  
  • Confidence
  • Assertiveness
  • 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:
    • Perseverance
    • Diverse background
    • Maturity
    • Focus on wellness
    • Lots of time spent with underserved population
    • Substantial amount of clinical experience
    • Master’s Degree

I Don’t Have Time VS. It’s Not a Priority.

I cannot emphasize how much “I don’t have time” correlates to “It’s not a priority.”  I challenge everyone to take the phrase “I don’t have time” and replace it with “It’s not a priority”.  I guarantee you that it will be eye-opening.    

Quite frequently I have individuals who talk to me about my workout regimen and my food prep and I’m amazed at their ability to find reasons as to why I am able to do the things I am able to do for my health and how those reasons correlate to why they absolutely cannot.  
The most recent incident occurred as someone proceeded to tell me that I have time to workout because “I’m not responsible for other people”. Translation: I don’t have a husband or children.  First, I believe this is an excuse.  Do individuals who have families have a time management and priority challenge: yes. Do individuals like me have a priority challenge?  YES. Everyone’s time management challenges are unique to them.  I feel as though others have attempted to make me feel that because I don’t have a family, my priorities and check lists of things to complete are somehow easier to accomplish or not as important as those with families/husbands/wives.  I proceeded to tell this person that I work full-time. I run a side business and a website.  I have a dog that is a priority and I make sure she has food prepared and gets a walk 6 days a week. I spend a lot of time on the website/blog and other projects I’m working on collaborating with other professionals.  I also spend a decent amount of time reading about medicine and investing into my career. 
Everyday I wake up at 4:45am. I go to the gym participate in group crossfit class 5-6 days per week and 3 days a week I do extra individualized programming.  I’m either out of the gym by 6:30 or 7:30am on days that I work depending on my programming.  I go home walk my pup and listen to my HIPPO education RAP, shower/get ready/pack lunch(already prepped for week)/eat breakfast. Any extra time is dedicated to editing statements or working on the website OR a special project I’m working on with National Physician Assistant Eduction (its secret for now 😉  I arrive at work at 9am.  9am.  By the time I get to work I’ve done more with my day than most people do with 12 hours.  Currently I work in an urgent care.  This morning in 3 hours and 15 minutes I have seen 11 patients and written most of this blog.  Any down time at work I spend editing, reading medicine or responding to emails. 
We all have priority challenges.  We filter massive amounts of information, people and tasks daily and we decide consciously and unconsciously what we prioritize.  You are what you do, not who you say you are or what you say you will do. 
We all have the same 24 hours in the day, it’s all about finding ways to maximize every minute and hour afforded to you. 
I challenge everyone who reads this article– for ONE WEEK: Replace “I don’t have time” with “It’s not a priority” and I guarantee you will learn a great deal about yourself.  

Breaking Down PA School Interview Questions: Special Edition

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”
    • Onset
      • When did it start
    • Duration
      • How long has this been going on?
    • Location/Radiation
      • 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?
    • Quality
      • Describe what is going on
      • Is the pain sharp, dull, throbbing
      • When they have difficulty swallowing is it solids, liquids, etc
    • Quantity
      • The good old “on a scale of 1 to 10…10 being the worst and 1 being very little”
    • Aggravating/Alleviating
      • 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

 

Breaking Down PA School Interview Questions IX

Q: On clinical rotation your preceptor is treating patients disrespectfully and making hurtful comments to you about them after they leave.  How do you react and what do you do (if anything)?

What are they looking for?

  • Maturity and leadership.  That you can make a decision to talk to your clinical coordinator about this preceptor.
  • That you can keep your cool under a stressful situation
  • Despite your preceptor being “in charge” of you, you can stand up for what is right in an appropriate respectful manner

What to avoid?

  • Stating you would do nothing.  This is a red flag that you don’t have respect for patients or the maturity to do the right thing even if it is someone in a higher position than you doing wrong. 
  • Say that you would create any kind of immediate confrontation directly with your preceptor

What to say?

  • That you would remain calm while on site at rotation
  • Contact your clinical coordinator immediately at the end of the day
    • State that you were in a very uncomfortable position
    • Make it clear that you don’t support his/her actions
  • How should your clinical coordinator react?
    • They may or may not take a question like this in this direction.  They should definitely leave you with some sense that the situation is at least being looked in to. 
  • What if they ask you if you are comfortable going back to the site?
    • Be honest. If a preceptor is being disrespectful to patients you probably shouldn’t be at that site.  

 

 

Breaking Down PA School Interview Questions IIX

Q: What would you do if you disagree with your supervising physician in the treatment plan for a patient? 

What are they looking for?

  • How you react to stressful and confrontational situations
  • No one wants to work with someone or allow someone to represent their institution that’s going to be a jerk if you disagree with them 
  • That you can kindly and appropriately advocate for your patients 

What to avoid

  • Saying that you would do what you thought was right no matter what your SP says
  • In the same light, stating that you would do whatever your supervising physician said because they are in charge is also not the right answer
  • If you go to another colleague– never ever bad mouth the physician involved in the course of treatment.  

What to say

  • You would talk to you SP in a way that you were asking for education regarding the course of treatment.  In other words something along the lines of “This isn’t a course of treatment I am familiar with would you mind giving me some information so I can better understand?”
  • If after you’ve asked for clarification you still don’t agree to the extent that you think the patient may suffer–talk to your colleagues or another SP about what they think the best course of treatment would be.
  •  Always remember and make it a point that you would not seek another opinion until after talking to your initial SP.
  • Always promote collaboration and learning into your answer whenever someone asks you about a controversial situation.

Breaking Down PA School Interview Questions IV

Q: What do you feel is one of the biggest issues currently facing our health care system?

What are they looking for?

  • Understanding of what is happening in our health care system.  This shows the panel that you are interested in medicine and what is going on in the field you want to enter (in a lay persons answer: you know what’s up)
  • Perhaps you have a member ship to AAPA and read PA professional or JAAPA, mentioning these or others  as your source of information demonstrates a few things: dedication to the profession, extra effort to obtain information, self motivated behavior

What to avoid

  • This is tricky here, because you need to mention what is happening in health care without associating your personal opinion to the matter which can be difficult (to some degree you have to give an opinion because they are asking you what you think–just be careful!)

What to say

  • There are so many issues facing health care right now, below are a list of issues I feel are at the forefront of medicine and affecting providers:
    • Opiate abuse and dependence, both prescription and street heroin use
      • I would say 2/3 patients I admit or see have a prescription for a narcotic pain medication.  It’s a very intense issue in our country and is complex and multi-factorial.
        •  Patients who are given prescriptions after surgery and continue to have pain therefore continue to have a prescription for pain medication.
        • Lack of conservative measures or patients failing conservative measures such as physical therapy, weight loss.  I see a lot of patients on narcotic pain medication for arthritis, much of which joint destruction is caused by obesity (not ALL of the time but pressure on joints can really destroy them)
        • Pressure for patient satisfaction.  Docs, PA’s and NPs are being scored and reimbursed based on how patients feel they are treated.  As part of that crisis I don’t doubt that some providers view part of that satisfaction as controlling patients pain control.  I’m not stating all providers do this by any means, but I know I can say I saw it on rotations and I have treated patients in the hospital who have not seen their provider in 6 months and they continue to provide scripts for family members to pick up for them (by the way this is not ok and I’m fairly certain is some type of violation of a DEA license because patients need to be seen at regular intervals for a continued narcotic script to be valid)
        • Street use I hope is an obvious one that I’m not going to breakdown here
        • Serious implications for health, especially with heroin use–infections, overdose, etc.
    • Shortage of providers/Rural Medicine/Access to treatment
      • This issue is real.  As a traveling PA I can tell you that both of my assignments now will be in areas that desperately need providers.  
      • This is also a great way to talk about how PA’s help bridge the gap (Mind the GAP!— London anyone?) 
    • Cost of health care
      • This issue is also all too real.  Listen I pay 193$ a month and I’m a completely health individual.  I barely use my health care.  That is just the BEGINNING of this issue.  High monthly payments, high deductibles (my deductible is $2,700 and just for some perspective my financial advisor thought this plan was best for me), cost of medications, lab work, imaging.  I could go on.
      • IMO patients not being able to afford their medications creates a number of issues. 
        • First, they can’t get basic control of their chronic medical problems–say diabetes
        • Second, if patients can’t control their basic medical problems they end up with complications in the hospital and then they can’t afford their hospitalizations.  This is a problem not only on a personal level for the patient but also health care at large–driving up costs like crazy. 
        • The bottom line is that patients are more concerned with paying for healthcare than their own wellness which is is just bad all around
    • The specialization of medicine
      • We have become a society that continually self-refers to specialists.  Ankle pain? See ortho.  Diabetes? See endo. Both on an inpatient and outpatient basis–heres the issue:
        • PCP’s have less time with patients and more issues to cover–which creates more referrals and also patients to self refer because they can’t get appointments (which goes back to both cost and access)
        • Less continuity of care.  As best as we try for communication between offices it doesn’t always happen the best. 
        • Devaluing general medicine
          • Ok, this is my bias–but I believe that a medical home is really important.  Having a provider that knows you well and a “first line of defense” when you have a problem.  We are driving providers away from family practice and internal medicine for many reasons (less pay being one of them) and it seems to create the persona that this is not important and it is! 
          • Despite my bias/opinions make sure that if you discuss this you do so in a positive light.  Again, reinforcing the importance of family medicine and giving as many people as possible access to quality care.

Breaking Down PA School Interviews III

Q: Why do you want to be a Physician Assistant

  • What are they looking for?

    • That you have the ability to demonstrate understand about who PA’s are and what they do. Basically that you can distinguish between other health care professions.  Your response should delineate why PA and not another health care field. 
  • What to avoid:

    • “I always knew I wanted to practice medicine”.
      • This is a generic response and tells them nothing about why you want to be a PA.  This type of response suggests you lack knowledge about the PA profession, because if you don’t demonstrate that you have that knowledge they will assume you do not.
    • Anything that suggests you weren’t able to get in to medical school so you “settled” on being a PA
      • Believe it or not people do this and actually say it
      • I hope it goes without saying that this is a bad idea and I hope no one is going into the profession for this reason (FYI it’s more difficult by the numbers to get in to PA school)
      • Responses such as “I took the MCAT and couldn’t get a good score” or ” I don’t want to do residency” are well—not good
    • Speaking poorly of other professions
      • Saying you “want to be more than a nurse”– any type of negative connotation towards any other profession is a very bad idea.
  • What to say

    • For my answer I talked about my experience in as a therapist and how I realized although I loved how the profession allowed me to help others it offered a lot of short comings that I wished I could address.  I went on to discuss a particular incident that a teenage girl was asking questions about the medication she was taking for depression.  I knew the answer.  I had studied neuroscience, however if I would have explained this answer I would have technically been”out of my scope of practice”.  I wanted to be the person who was able to provide these types of answers, thus adding to the reasons I wanted to pursue the PA profession.
    • Moving laterally across specialties and being trained on a general medical model
    • Practicing medicine in a collaborative setting
    • Providing patient care on a comprehensive level
    • Talk about the difference you saw a physician assistant make in the life of a patient while you were shadowing
    • As always–be positive and genuine!

Breaking Down PA School Interview Questions IV

This weeks question was submitted via e-mail and its a two-for-one! If you have a question you want broken down be sure to e-mail me at: all.things.pac@gmail.com

Q: What is your greatest strength?

What are they looking for?

  • This is pretty straight forward.  What do you do well?  What characteristic do you possess that makes you an excellent candidate and will make you a great PA?
  • Try to wrap the quality into a story to show that you have demonstrated that behavior in the past.  Behavioral interviewing is a large part of PA schools.  Admissions committees believe the old saying “history repeats itself”. Show them in addition to telling them with a story.

What not to say:

  • I’m a great student, I graduated with a 4.0 (they will have all these stats and likely on your resume).
  • Anything really vague or that they can get from your resume. Remember anything open-ended you are asked in your interview is your chance to tell them anything about yourself and why you are the top 1-4% of applications they received.
  • Don’t brag too much.  There is confidence and there is cocky. Be confident, not cocky. 

What to say:

  • I was not asked this on my interview.  Had I been asked I would have said perseverance.  I had a long, pre-determined and daunting road to the point of applying to PA school.  I saw something I wanted and went after it with my heart and soul. I had arrived at this point and would use the same perseverance to make my way through PA school and throughout my career.
  • Be genuine. People can sense when you give them a bunch of bologna.
  • This is a very individual answer. In my opinion appropriate answers include: compassion, team player, adaptability, thriving under stress and being able to work effectively with many different individuals (there are many more but these are just examples to get you started).

Q: What is your greatest weakness?

What are they looking for?

  • Also quite straight forward, but a little more messy than your strength.
  • You always want the weakness to be something you turn in to a strength, but not be overwhelming.
  • Demonstrate that you understand what you need to work on and how you can better yourself

What not to say:

  • Anything that can be misconstrued as a quality that would make you difficult to work with your impede your work as a PA or PA student
  • Stay away from politics, religion or anything that can be construed as racism–all very very bad things.  Anything that can be emotionally charged should always be avoided in interviews (I hope all of these things are obvious and not qualities anyone posesses but just as a friendly reminder).

What to say:

  • I was not asked this question for my PA school interview either that I remember.  However, I have been asked this at many interviews prior to PA school.  My answer has always been “Low tolerance for a poor work ethic” aka I can’t stand laziness.  I further state that I tend to take on responsibilities of others and it can take away from the quality for which I perform my own job.  I’ve since learned to better stay within my means by still being a team player.
  • What do you need to improve on? Are you too hard on yourself/you own worst enemy? Do you have a tendency to be an over-achiever and not know when to take breaks and relax? Do you take on too much responsibility in a group setting? Trouble stepping back and following because you’re a natural leader? All of these are good examples
  • Remember: BE GENUINE!  I cannot stress this enough, it’s so easy to see when someone is insincere.