10 Most Common Physician Associate Interview Questions and Model Answers

Advice & Insight From PA Application Specialists

Interviews for PA School can cover challenging topics. Here, we present 10 of the most common questions and answers suitable for candidates to PA schools. You can find more questions in our PA Question Bank. 

Motivation for Physician Associate Studies

What motivated you to choose a career as a Physician Associate rather than a Doctor or Nurse?

My decision to pursue a career as a Physician Associate was based on the role’s unique blend of medical expertise and the patient-centred care typically associated with nursing. While doctors carry an immense responsibility in diagnosing and deciding treatment plans, they often do not have as much patient interaction time due to their many responsibilities. Nurses, on the other hand, spend more time with patients but may not be as involved in diagnostic and treatment decisions. As a Physician Associate, I am excited about the opportunity to straddle these roles – having an active part in diagnosing and managing patient treatment while also building long-term relationships with patients. Moreover, the flexibility of the PA role appeals to me, allowing movement between different specialities, which keeps the profession dynamic and interesting.

Can you discuss an experience that confirmed your desire to become a Physician Associate?

I was shadowing a GP and a Physician Associate in a busy community health centre. I observed the PA’s autonomy in managing patients, from diagnosis to developing and implementing treatment plans, but also their close working relationship with the GP. A patient with a complex history came in, and the PA assessed her, made a preliminary diagnosis, and then discussed the case with the GP. I was impressed with the synergy of their teamwork. Witnessing the pivotal role that PAs play in delivering patient care and improving healthcare access, particularly in a primary care setting, confirmed my aspiration to become a PA.

What steps have you taken to learn more about the role of a Physician Associate, and how has this increased your interest in this profession?

I’ve spent considerable time shadowing PAs in different healthcare settings, including primary care, emergency medicine, and surgical specialities. These experiences have provided me with a holistic view of the profession, demonstrating the versatility and importance of the PA role. I’ve also attended webinars hosted by PAs and read extensively about the profession’s developments. These steps have significantly solidified and enhanced my interest in the PA profession. They allowed me to witness first-hand the impact PAs can have on patient care, understand the complexities and challenges of the job, and appreciate the immense value they bring to the healthcare team. It reinforced my belief that the PA profession aligns perfectly with my passion for direct patient care, continuous learning, and a team-based approach to healthcare.


Personal Attributes

Describe a time when you demonstrated effective teamwork in a high-pressure environment.

Last year, I worked as a healthcare assistant in a busy Accident & Emergency department. One day, we had an influx of patients due to a multi-car accident on the motorway. The team was under immense pressure to manage this situation alongside the usual A&E admissions. I was assigned to work closely with a senior nurse, and together we triaged the patients, prioritised them based on urgency, and provided preliminary care such as wound dressings and vital signs monitoring. Despite the high-stress environment, we communicated effectively and worked together to ensure every patient received the attention they needed. We also had to collaborate with other members of the team, such as doctors and radiologists, relaying crucial information accurately and promptly. This experience highlighted the importance of clear communication, mutual support, and the efficient division of tasks in a high-pressure environment, all of which are crucial in the role of a Physician Associate.

How do you handle stress and maintain work-life balance in a demanding profession like healthcare?

Stress is an inherent part of working in healthcare, but it is how you manage it that makes the difference. Personally, I employ several strategies to handle stress and maintain a work-life balance. To begin with, I prioritise tasks and use time management strategies to ensure that I manage my responsibilities efficiently. I also understand the importance of self-care, so I set aside time each day for physical activity, as it helps me clear my mind and reduce stress. Moreover, I practice mindfulness and meditation to stay grounded and focused. Lastly, I have a strong support system in my family and friends, with whom I share my experiences and thoughts, and their understanding and support help me maintain a balance. All these strategies collectively help me handle the demands of a stressful profession while staying healthy, both mentally and physically.

Can you give an example of a situation where you demonstrated resilience?

During my final year of university, I was juggling several responsibilities: a part-time job, volunteer work at a local hospice, and my dissertation. Halfway through the year, a close family member fell seriously ill. I was suddenly thrown into a situation where I had to balance my studies, work, volunteering, and family obligations. The situation was incredibly challenging and took a toll on me. However, I was determined not to let this setback derail my plans. I communicated my situation to my professors and employer, who were very understanding and gave me some leeway. I reorganised my schedule, dedicating specific hours to my dissertation, work, and volunteering. I also spent quality time with my family, providing support in any way I could. It was a testing period, but I came through, managing to successfully complete my dissertation and continue my work and volunteering commitments while supporting my family. This experience tested my resilience and taught me the value of adaptability and perseverance in the face of adversity.

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Ethics & SJT

You find out a colleague has made a mistake which hasn't yet affected patient care but could do if it is not addressed. What do you do?

In this scenario, I believe the right course of action would be to approach my colleague and discuss the issue directly, to maintain openness and foster a learning environment. I would calmly explain my concerns, highlighting the potential risk to patient safety. If my colleague acknowledges the error and is willing to correct it, I would offer my support to rectify the situation. However, if they dismiss my concerns or the mistake is beyond our capacity to correct, I would escalate the matter to a senior member of staff or management. The key here is to prioritise patient safety and uphold professional integrity, while fostering a non-blame culture that encourages learning from mistakes.

A patient refuses to be treated by a healthcare professional due to their race. How do you respond?

The NHS upholds values of equality, dignity and respect, so racial discrimination against staff is not acceptable. I would first calmly explain this to the patient and try to diffuse the situation, reassuring them about the professional qualifications and competence of the staff member in question. If they still refuse, I would consult with my seniors to decide on an appropriate course of action. It’s crucial to balance patient choice with the necessity to uphold the dignity and rights of our healthcare staff.

You suspect a patient you are seeing alone is not able to give informed consent. How do you manage this situation?

Patient consent is paramount in healthcare. If I suspected a patient was unable to give informed consent, I would first assess their capacity using principles of the Mental Capacity Act – understanding, retaining, using or weighing information, and communicating the decision. If I was still uncertain about their capacity, I would seek advice from a more senior colleague. If capacity is indeed lacking, decisions would be made in the patient’s best interest, potentially involving family or carers, always remembering to respect the patient’s dignity and autonomy as much as possible.

Discuss the ethical implications of physician-assisted suicide.

Physician-assisted suicide raises numerous ethical implications. On one hand, there’s the principle of autonomy – individuals should have the right to control their life and death. From this perspective, assisting a terminally ill patient who wishes to end their suffering could be seen as a compassionate act. On the other hand, there’s the principle of ‘do no harm’. Many healthcare professionals argue that assisting in suicide conflicts with their role to preserve life. There’s also a concern about potential misuse and the possible psychological impact on healthcare professionals involved. It’s a highly complex issue with no simple solutions, highlighting the need for robust legal frameworks, comprehensive oversight, and ongoing dialogue among medical professionals, patients, and society at large.

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