Tips for PA Students on Finding Employment after PA School
One major tip would be shining on your rotations – with tips I outlined in a previous article on the Canadian PA website – myself and a lot of Pas in my graduating class got their jobs from rotations they had. Even if a rotation doesn’t have a job to offer, your preceptors from your rotations are your best references for when you start looking for positions.
- Be timely, eager, prepared, always reading, always volunteering to see patients, be competent, follow-up and reassess your patients, know them well, talk to your preceptors about their expectations early and prove that you are meeting them, leave thank you notes or send a thank you email at the end of your rotations.
- Stay in touch with preceptors – send them an email every couple of months and let them know how your training is progressing, thank them for having you, remind them of interesting cases you saw together, let them know what specialty you are thinking of, then when getting close to graduating: ask them if they wouldn’t mind being a reference for you – it is a lot easier when you’ve been keeping in touch with them and they remember who you are.
Another would be knowing where the jobs are! So subscribe to “Physician Assistant” job alerts to your email on LinkedIn, indeed, monitor the health force Ontario and CAPA job bank (become a CAPA member to do this – as a student it is well worth it). Many jobs on those will show up as a career start grant job as well.
You can send out letters of intent or interest by email to job postings even while you’re in school saying how you found out they were hiring a PA and that although you are still in school you are intending to apply to their institution when you graduate. If they’re still hiring, have a new posting, or get approved for grant funding, this will give you an edge when you interview and help you stand out against other candidates.
Talk to your peers, I can’t stress this enough. Your peers are an excellent resource for sharing job postings and letting you know of opportunities, keep your communication with your colleagues very transparent and share information about where the jobs are, who’s applying, what offers people are getting, what interview questions you’re getting, what the process was like. If you and your friends/colleagues apply for the same job: prepare for the interview together, compare offers, more information is always better to make an informed decision.
Prep for interviews: you can’t just think about your responses to questions and what you’ll touch on, you need to say it out loud with no preparation and see how you sound. Ask someone to go through common interview questions with you and work on talking your way through them out loud with no preparation – with practice you’ll get more comfortable.
- Common interview questions: tell me about a difficult patient you had? Tell me about a difficult encounter or disagreement with a co-workers you had and how you handled it? What do you think your biggest challenge will be as a new graduate? What is your greatest strength/weakness, why did you decide to interview for a job in X specialty (know the specialty you are interviewing for very well.), tell me about an ethical dilemma you had and how you handled it?
- Always have a few questions for the end of the interview, I like: “Where do you see the role of Pas in your department going in the next few years” “How can I be the best PA for your department” “What are the unique challenges your department/office faces that Pas can help with?”, “Do you see any barriers to expanding the PA role at your department/clinic?”.
Above all else – keep studying and learning, and make yourself into the PA you would want to be treating you. Read often, work on your communication skills, get comfortable being uncomfortable, practice your procedural skills, take every opportunity you can to get exposure to cases, stay sharp.
I would also just want to say that it is a great time to become a Physician Assistant in Canada. I went into the program a bit concerned about job prospects, I had read some things online that concerned me. None of that turned out to be true. Most PA graduates I knew had more than one offer, there were far more job postings than new graduates, the perception of the PA profession from every physician I worked with was excellent. I think there is a ton of room for us to grow as a profession moving forward.
Harrison Elliot, BScPA, BHSc, RPSGT
Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant
University of Toronto Consortium of Physician Assistant Educate Graduate, Class of 2020