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Physician Assistant Interview Questions

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  1. Have you ever gotten in a disagreement with a colleague over the management of a patient? How did you handle it? See answer
  2. How do you get patients to open up to you about their medical history? See answer
  3. How do you overcome the challenges of being a physician assistant? See answer
  4. What would you say is our hospital’s greatest asset to the community? See answer
  5. Can you give me an example of what you’ve done to enhance patient safety?
  6. We’re in a rural area where you would be the primary care provider at the clinic. The doctor is likely to show up only one or two days a week. Can you give us an example of how you would collaborate with them about patient needs?
  7. You cannot come to a conclusion about a patient’s condition. Do you make an educated diagnosis based on their symptoms or do you ask another medical professional for assistance?
  8. A patient comes to you with a mysterious pain in their abdomen. Can you walk me through what you would do in this situation?
  9. A child is nervous about receiving a vaccination. How do you calm them down and make them feel comfortable?
  10. What measures do you take to maintain your hygiene and overall health throughout your workday?
  11. A concerned parent contacts you after business hours because their child has a fever. What would you instruct them to do?
  12. Are you comfortable using databases and digital filing systems to access and update patient records? What other medical technologies have you worked with?
  13. Can you tell me about a time you had to help a physician during an appointment? How did you support them?
  14. Can you tell me why the role of a physician assistant is just as important as a physician?
  15. Have you ever had to tell a patient about a life-changing diagnosis? How did you approach the situation?
  16. A patient informs you that they continuously feel upset and have a lack of motivation. Who do you refer them to?
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7 Physician Assistant Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

Give us an example of what you’ve done to enhance patient safety.

A:

The well-being of patients is a top priority at many facilities. Thus, it’s critical to know that a candidate does actually value patient safety.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Practical example
  • Value of the remedy
  • Evidence of initiative

Example:

“When I worked at ABC Hospital, there were no signs reminding personnel to wash their hands. Unfortunately, research shows that less than 50 percent of medical personnel consistently wash their hands. This behavior jeopardizes the health of patients every day, so I brought the issue up to the patient safety committee. The hospital began putting signs in bathrooms, and the rates of patients who got sick in our hospital dropped by 15 percent.”

Q:

We’re in a rural area where you would be the primary care provider at the clinic. The doctor is likely to show up only one or two days a week. Share with us your ideas for how you could collaborate with her.

A:

Even if your company is in a busy city, it’s likely that your physician assistant will work often without a physician in the room. You could ask instead, “Since you’ll frequently work without a doctor in the room, how will you plan ahead to make sure you don’t take on more than you can handle?”

What to look for in an answer:

  • Thoughtful answer
  • Practical solution
  • Willingness to collaborate

Example:

“I would set up a meeting between the two of us to get an understanding of what communication methods we’re both comfortable with. One idea is for me to email her at the end of each workday with any notable questions or concerns and hear back within 24 hours. We would also discuss in advance what aspects we are comfortable with me covering, for example, prescribing specific medications but not others.”

Q:

Have you ever gotten in a disagreement with a colleague over the management of a patient? How did you handle it?

A:

It’s good to know how your job candidates resolve conflicts. This question goes a little further in that it draws out the fact something about this disagreement was different.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Attempt at a civil resolution
  • Identification of real-world stakes
  • No putting anyone down

Example:

“Two years ago, a patient we’ll call Jane came into the ER in a cold sweat and complaining of jaw pain. I had read a study about women’s heart attack symptoms often being ignored, so when the physician insisted I release Jane after barely looking at her, I refused. As it turned out, Jane wasn’t having a heart attack, but I sought out the physician and explained why I did what I did. I showed him the study, which was eye-opening for him too.”

Q:

How do you get patients to open up to you about their medical history?

A:

Patients often don’t divulge everything they should when a physician assistant asks for their medical history. It could be from simple forgetfulness or shame. Sometimes, the patient just doesn’t think something is important. This question gives you an idea of whether a candidate can get patients to open up.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Practical process
  • Approach that makes life easier for patients
  • Solution that should genuinely help

Example:

“During the appointment is one of the worst times to take a complete medical history. Patients are nervous, time is short, they may be missing work and physician assistants and doctors are likely running behind schedule, too. So, what I like to do is have the patient fill out a packet of documents before the visit. It lays out the rationale behind needing a complete medical history and gives them time to make additions.”

Q:

How do you overcome the challenges of being a physician assistant?

A:

For many people, the reality of a job in medicine means stress, long hours and, sometimes, burnout. This question helps you identify candidates who fit your organization well.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Element that shouldn’t be a huge issue in your organization
  • Rationale behind the frustration
  • Attempt to resolve the problem

Example:

“A lot of the time, patients are in denial about the seriousness of their situation. They expect me to help them while they don’t help themselves. I try to put myself in their shoes, though, acknowledging that bad behaviors such as smoking have helped them cope with life.”

Q:

What would you say is our hospital’s greatest asset to the community?

A:

Employees should genuinely want to be at your hospital or facility. This question gives you insight into what factors matter to the candidate.
What to look for in an answer:

  • Evidence of research
  • Differentiator among competitors
  • Why the issue matters

Example:

“Medical care should be accessible to everyone, and I love that your hospital has different programs and pricing structures so that virtually anyone can come here. You’re truly a community hospital.”

Q:

You cannot come to a conclusion about a patient's condition. Do you make an educated diagnosis based on their symptoms or do you ask another medical professional for assistance?

A:

Physician assistants need to work closely with other medical professionals to provide patients with superb medical care. This question helps the interviewer determine whether a candidate understands their professional limitations. It also allows the interviewer to gauge a candidate's ability to ask for help when necessary in order to best assist their patients.

The candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Team-oriented mindset
  • Humble nature
  • Desire for accuracy

A good candidate's answer could look like this:

Example:

"In this situation, I would consult with the physician. I understand that my medical knowledge can only go so far, and there comes a point where you need to rely on your team members for help. The ultimate goal is to accurately diagnose your patients so they can start receiving the care they need."

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