Asked why not PA or NP in med school interview??

So much for age NOT being an issue…





I had a phone interview with a school where my age came up (again!!). I was asked why I didn’t consider being an NP or PA since I was in my late 30’s and my response was that I don’t want to be involved in patient care at that level and that most patient care heavy fields don’t allow time for the career in academia I envision in my future. The interviewer responded that she didn’t understand my interest in medicine. I responded that being a PA or nurse didn’t fit my personality and that I was more interetsed in treating and preventing disease than in direct and intimate patient care (she knew I was applying MD/PhD). Opps, definitely NOT the answer she was looking for!!





I wasn’t prepared to be asked about careers outside of medicine except why not the PhD or that people would suggest careers outside of the one I’m applying to ( I guess my MCAT wasn’t high enough) and I’m not happy about the way I handled this. Any one have any suggestions for how to answer the question of why not PA or nursing without making myself look like an arse?? Has anyone else had a similar experience???

After giving the question of why not PA or nursing some thought, what I wished I had said is that I’m interested in studying the human body and the manifestation of diesease at a level only available in medical sschool and that I anticipate a leadership role in areas of patient care. Still, I don’t think this would have been a satisfactory answer.

When I interviewed I tried to be prepared for that question. Although I feel like there is a sexist element to it in addition to possible age-ism. I’d like to ask the interviewer if they’d have asked an older man that question too… But that all aside, I would have said that I considered it because it would have taken less time (true) but in the end felt that I was a much better fit in the role of doctor and enjoy the academic challenge. I expect to be much more satisfied as a doctor. It is always better to phrase in the positive light when interviewing.
Good luck in your interviews.
Jill

I often think about this question, because I KNOW something similar will be asked of me when I (hopefully) someday make it to the interview stage.
I often think that I prefer a physician route because I have a very strong personality and I like to be in charge. I enjoy researching illnesses and diagnostic work. I also think I would enjoy the autonomy more than my current field (If I were a physician, I wouldn’t have to ask another physician for the OK to do an exam, I could just do it!), and I think I would enjoy being the “hub” of a patient’s medical treatment. For example, if my patient needed different types of therapies (PT, OT, ST, etc), I would be able to monitor all of this and help the patient decide what is appropriate.
I also enjoy learning about new advances in medicine, and would enjoy the level of continuing education that would be available to me.
I work very well under pressure and am great at delegating responsibilities.
Hopefully, when the time is right, all of this information will come flowing back to me! PathDr, I’m sure you did fine. Sounded ok to me, but then again, I know more of you from your posts (and like what I read ).
Good luck, and let us know the outcome of that!

Hello pathdr2b!
I did not realize that this question came up during interviews. Is this common? This is really is the first that I have heard of this. I think you answered honestly. That’s what’s most important.

I once had a meeting with a premed adivsor and that was the first thing she started with. How much easier PA school is, how much shorter it is, how you get to do everything with it anyway. Then she went on and on about the problems in medicine, and I finally said, “There are problems with every type of career,” and then she moved on. I think it was just a test to see how serious I was and whether I had thought about “everything” first.

I decided not to followup submitting any additinal info to this school. I’m going to focus on the other 4 which don’t seem to have a problem with my age or career aspirations.
But it doesn make me wonder if NP or PA students ever get asked why not medicine?
I can say that this was a VERY rewarding experience (and luckily this school was 5th on my list among the 5 was interested in) so I don’t feel bad at all. I will also focus on the “leadership” aspects of a career in medicine.

That’s interesting. I can understand the desire of adcoms to test the applicants level of commitment but that’s a pretty tricky way to go about it. To me, it still goes back to that age old question of “why medicine?”

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So much for age NOT being an issue…
I had a phone interview with a school where my age came up (again!!). I was asked why I didn’t consider being an NP or PA since I was in my late 30’s and my response was that I don’t want to be involved in patient care at that level and that most patient care heavy fields don’t allow time for the career in academia I envision in my future. The interviewer responded that she didn’t understand my interest in medicine. I responded that being a PA or nurse didn’t fit my personality and that I was more interetsed in treating and preventing disease than in direct and intimate patient care (she knew I was applying MD/PhD). Opps, definitely NOT the answer she was looking for!!
I wasn’t prepared to be asked about careers outside of medicine except why not the PhD or that people would suggest careers outside of the one I’m applying to ( I guess my MCAT wasn’t high enough) and I’m not happy about the way I handled this. Any one have any suggestions for how to answer the question of why not PA or nursing without making myself look like an arse?? Has anyone else had a similar experience???


I’m surprised they would mention the word “age”. You’re not supposed to say certain words in the corporate world today and “age” is definitely high on that list, along with “race”, “religion”, and “party”. I guess medical schools are a bit behind the politically correct times.
I guess I would respond that NP/PA is an attractive alternative that would enable me to practice medicine after a shorter training period, but since I’m interested in pushing my limits and exercising my brain to the utmost I may not be satisfied with a mid-level education.
My heart tells me that I really want and need the basic science that med school provides and the depth and breadth of training that goes along with it, plus the independence and freedom to map out my career that the degree confers. I always seek out the utmost level of achievement in whatever field I find myself, and while I sometimes do get in over my head, usually it challenges me to grow into a greater role rather than confine myself to a lesser role.
I don’t take your answer as making you look like an arse

Don’t feel so bad when transferring to the carrib, age came up for me (I’m 41). But I didn’t care. I think they have to test the waters to see if they can rattle you. As far as the stuff as PA or NP well I think it’s like saying to me why were you not happy as an RN. I jst use that kind of question as an opened door to my “passion” to be an FP! To me to be in a rural area an MD is required to do the job for my patients I want to do so here I am! It seems to me when they ask these questions it’s not age, pregnancy or career choice they are looking for how you react. Yes these issues should not be considered but your reaction to the question can be.
Although I think it may be wrong to use these topics in an interview. They have to cut some people fom the acceptance list and how you react to uncomfortable questions may be what does it. Just my 2 cents.

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Although I think it may be wrong to use these topics in an interview. They have to cut some people fom the acceptance list and how you react to uncomfortable questions may be what does it. Just my 2 cents.


You know the world is a VERY small place. I think I handled the situation just fine since my response came back up again under circumstances I’d rather not discuss at this time. Suffice it to say that I’m soooo glad I didn’t “go off” about it on the internet! The world is too dam small for that and I’ve learned (and relearning) to never say never to ANYTHING!!! I just may end up at this school after all one day!

If you yourself mention anything to do with age, it is fair game for the interviewer to ask questions about it (same with significant others, kids, family support, etc.). I made that mistake in my first interview and never again.





As far as the PA/NP/MD question, I got this one from a nurse interviewing me. I had spent 2 days shadowing a nurse who knew me very well, and could honestly say that neither he nor I could see me being happy in nursing, for reasons which I discussed. I think it is an excellent question.

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If you yourself mention anything to do with age, it is fair game for the interviewer to ask questions about it (same with significant others, kids, family support, etc.). I made that mistake in my first interview and never again.
As far as the PA/NP/MD question, I got this one from a nurse interviewing me. I had spent 2 days shadowing a nurse who knew me very well, and could honestly say that neither he nor I could see me being happy in nursing, for reasons which I discussed. I think it is an excellent question.


I actually didn’ mention anything about my age during the interview. I think because I’m in my late 30’s people assume things like I have a family, kids, ect. Gotta remember, the birthdate is ON the AMCAS application. Howvere, like you I’ll NEVER mention anythign remotely resembling my family life again!!!
I think the main reason I think the question isn’t a good one is because 1) The interviewer knew my mother was an NP so it’s assumed I’d already considered nursing. I ruled it out over 30 years ago 2) By the time a person is in their late 30’s, they already have a pretty good idea about what the “want to be when they grow up”. I could have finished nursing school 5 times by the time I finish med school. Most importantly nursing/NP has absolutely NOTHING to do with academic research. I imagine if I had mentioned anything about a career in primary care, the question would have made more sense.
Like I may have mentioned before, I spent an enormous amount of time talking abotu why I didnt’ want to be a NP/PA and even pathologists assistant. As every experience is a learning one, I’ve learned that I’d have to do a better job “leading” the interview if I expect the interviewer to learn anything about me.
Maybe I could say something like this after the second question/comment unrealted to why I’m there: "While I think those professions are a noble and important part of the health care team, I’d like to communicate to you how I became interested in medicine, why I’m interested in medicine and how I see my career developing during the years I’m a medical student in your program. In my most recent healthcare experience…"
If the president can misdierct a conversation, surely I can too!

Yea Don’t get me wrong I think it’s wrong to interview in this way.

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Yea Don’t get me wrong I think it’s wrong to interview in this way.


Ya know it is wrong, but I also think it’s a great lesson on being prepared for anything. A few years ago, “a friend of a freind” was asked did he masturbate in an interview. I think I was more ready with an answer for that one that the NP/PA question.

Yea it’s proof that interviews know they hold the cards so they are not scared

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Think about how doctors think versus how RNs think–and whether that’s something you like. Think about how they work, too. When I’m in the emergency department or on a ward floor it’s often clear that the best thing I can do for a patient is to get them some water, rearrange their pillow, help them get positioned to take a pee into the urinal, and so on; or that what is most important are nursing tasks like getting bloods for the lab and getting fluids running, or getting the medicines out of the dispensing machine and checking that the docs haven’t written for dangerous doses. Often the things that the doctors and I are doing are not really the point in that hour. Well, as a medical student and I hope as a doctor I still especially do the kindness/urinal/pillow parts of the nursing job when I can, because I find it personally rewarding, and because I believe in the idea of a whole healthcare team which means everyone is oriented towards the goal of achieving the best complete care for the patient, not just their corner of that care. But it’s actually not my job. It’s even sometimes just an indulgence on my part, a way of convincing myself that I’m useful and nice, a little emotional crutch of mine that I’ll likely have less and less time for as I go on–and that’s true whether DO or MD. It may be the best thing for that patient at that time–but that means that it’s the nurse’s job to be the most important person for that patient in that hour, not mine.



I posted this reposnse from another thread because I thought it was a GREAT answer to my question of why my interviewer wasn’t impressed in the least to my repsonse to the why not NP/PA question.
Well they say you shoud NEVER assume and that’s exactly what I did. I ASSUMED that those “nursing qualities” of showing compassion and consideratin were a given for a premed applicant. Fluffing a pillow or assisting a patient to the bathroom seems to me like not only the kind thing to do but what a person is SUPPOSED to do if someone is in need. In my mind, helping in this way is a no brainer, but apparntly this showing compassion thing isn’t second nature to all premeds. I think in my response to the interviewer in saying that I was not interested in patient care at the “nursing level” or something to that effect, what it sounded like I was saying is that I lack compassion and now I understand how she could have drawn that conclusion.
So thanks to OPM but especially Joe and OMD for posting such insightful posts. I’m still not sure when I’ll be ready to apply to med school(this year or next), but with each passing day I’m feeling more and more like when I do, I’ll do so with the best application I could have put forth!

It depends who interviews you but the question of “why not medical school?” seems to be a staple in PA school interviews. The guys/gals I know in PA school or who interviewed were all asked this question. Regardless of age or sex. I was asked by a program director why not medical school so the questions go both ways.

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I’m surprised they would mention the word “age”. You’re not supposed to say certain words in the corporate world today and “age” is definitely high on that list, along with “race”, “religion”, and “party”. I guess medical schools are a bit behind the politically correct times.


Corporate world does not use these terms but not because of political correctness but because of the law. It’s illegal to discriminate for any of those reasons and therefore they should not come up during interviews. If they do you have grounds for a suit.
Medical schools are not bound by these laws. They are not employing you. So they can pretty much ask what they like.

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I guess medical schools are a bit behind the politically correct times.










Ha ha ha, I am just laughing because that has got to be the understatement of the year.





pathdr: I see nothing wrong with the response you gave during that interview. I can see how you would worry that they interpreted it incorrectly–and maybe they did–but overall I wouldn’t stress about that. Yeah, you have to be on your best during interviews but you should not have to become paranoid. I guess you could stress “science” in your answer, or “diagnosing” or something like that, but what else are you supposed to say? Anyway, saying that you want to be involved in diagnosing and treating disease from a scientific perspective seems like a very reasonable answer to that question. Even if you didn’t use the word “science,” you have a science background and are applying MD/PhD, so there’s no doubt. But agreeably, it’s probably a good idea to pad any discussion of “science” and “diagnosis” with a reference to your eagerness for “patient care.” Seriously, some of these interviews follow such a stock format that all you can really do is make sure you get all of the relevant buzz words out and then leave.