You’re officially job searching for your first PA job…EVER! Where to start? What to do? What to expect on interviews? Keep calm & read on
Start by deciding which area of specialty suits you best. After clinical rotations, I knew for sure I did not want to do anything in peds (sorry kiddos!) or specialize in anything too early. While I had (and still have) a lot of interest in dermatology, it seemed too specialized for me right out of school. So it was: Family medicine, ER, and Urgent Care—all areas I thoroughly enjoyed and could see myself working in!
Graduation to First job
Graduation, PANCE, Interviews, Licensing, first job as a PA-C
The whole process took about 3 months. Yep, that meant 3 months without any income. Plan accordingly—that may mean moving back in with loved ones to save on rent, taking out a little bit more loans, or working (Lyft? Uber? Yoga teacher?). Below you’ll find my timeline to give you a better idea:
May 22, 2018--Graduation
June 1-17, 2018—PANCE prep/applying for jobs & interviewing
June 18, 2018—Passed PANCE
June 19-30, 2018—More interviews & shadowing
June 30, 2018—Received California PA license—fairly quick, but there were some glitches throughout the process—was asked to submit copy of DMV record & other questions on application. Take note of these little delays!
July 1, 2018—Accepted job offer. Started the DEA license/hospital clearance process, which took about 1.5 months
July 14, 2018--Controlled Substances certificate course
August 15, 2018— DEA license arrived. Officially cleared!
Did you have any job offers during rotations?
Yes, but I didn’t accept any. A lot of my rotations were in Northern or Central California. While I potentially saw myself working in these hospitals or clinics, I knew I wouldn’t be able to live anywhere but SoCal—Los Angeles truly is home. So, I graduated without a locked in position or job waiting for me. Was this scary? A little bit, especially since a lot of my classmates already knew where they were headed.
How did you find your job?
I was getting news of job openings from past preceptors, past employers, classmates, and via job application websites. My job came from one of the websites listed..I cannot remember which haha! But, don’t forget the importance of networking
Websites I used:
How did you manage to get jobs in both Urgent Care and Family Medicine?
I already knew I wanted to do both. As much as I love FM, it can get a little repetitive. The job I interviewed for (and ended up accepting) only had Urgent Care duties listed. When I interviewed I realized there were also looking for primary care providers—just my luck! Lesson learned: it doesn’t hurt to ask to be considered for both
Were you ever asked about clinical scenarios?
Yes, there were some employers who asked how I would handle certain chief complaints and I talked about work-up, differentials, etc. Don’t worry about this too much, no need to prep for this. You’ll be more than qualified to answer them
Did you have a chance to shadow in office?
Yes, I think most of the jobs I interviewed for allowed this. And, I highly recommend it! Our scope of practice tends to vary depending on the clinic/hospital. It also varies on the supervising (aka collaborating) physician’s experience working with PAs. Spending a day or two at the potential job gives you a feel for the clinic/hospital environment, scope, etc.
If you’re taking over another PAs job, be sure to ask why she/he is leaving. A job I interviewed for made it seem as if the PA was simply switching to another specialty. The more I spoke with him, the more I realized he was limited on the types of patients he managed. He also seemed really unhappy and undervalued there! Cue the red flags
What should I look for as a new grad?
You really have to think about your priorities and what you are looking for in a job—only you can define these for yourself. For me, I focused on these when searching:
On the Job
The first two weeks were primarily orientation. I saw patients with the doctor or other practioners, learned more about the referral system, charting/documenting. Saw patients but it was more so like rotations! After that, I pretty much hit the ground running—but there were limitations set in place. Don’t burn yourself out and learn to speak up if things are overwhelming!
How often were you checking in with you supervising physician? How often are you checking in now?
My supervising is pretty confident in my skills—sometimes too confident if you ask me lol! From the beginning, he was all about autonomy. The first weeks, he’d ask about almost every patient. Then, it eased up a bit. Now, we transitioned to only check in as needed. During our shifts, he literally sits beside me at our station so if I have any question—he’s about 2 feet away. He’s also available all the time, on call. He still looks over 100% of my charts/cases. Lastly, we always review interesting cases from the day before!
You mean there is still studying after graduation? You bet. The first month was tough. I would get home exhausted, overwhelmed, and a lot of times scared I missed something. I work 15 or 16 shifts a month—even now, a lot of those days off are spent studying/going over cases/asking a billion questions to my collaborating physician & specialists
Common Questions on Interviews
I had a lot of requests about common questions asked on interviews, I’ve asked a couple PA-Cs to chime in on the topic. Below you’ll find so many examples!
Interview Tips by Aakash & Rachel, Surg PA-C
Interview Tips by Chase, ER PA-C
Tips for Answering Interview Questions:
Questions to ask the employer/interviewer:
Interview Tips by Ngan, ENT PA-C
Questions to ask the Employer
Interview Tips by Erin, ER PA Resident
PA Residency Interview Questions
Interview Tips by Karina, Endocrinology PA-C