Top Skills To Look For When Recruiting Physician Assistants

Written by: Alex Brown
Published on: Apr 26, 2021

Group of PAs

Physician assistants (PAs) are becoming more valuable as the healthcare industry experiences a growing, critical shortage of physicians. The situation grows more concerning as the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of up to 139,000 doctors by 2033.

To fill this expanding gap, qualified physician assistants offer many of the same services to treat patients. However, it takes the right combination of physician assistant skills and knowledge to provide real benefits to both patients and fellow medical providers.

As a recruiter, what should you focus on to surface the best candidates for PA roles? Here are the top skills to consider as you short-list potential hires.

Strong Basic Knowledge

Before receiving their licenses, all physician assistants must complete the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). How well they perform on PANCE provides an indication of the range of responsibilities they can handle. This is critical because the more responsibilities they can take on, the more they free up vital physician duties.

Some of the basic knowledge areas they must demonstrate include:

  • A wide base of medical indicators, including risk factors, pathology, and epidemiology.
  • Knowledge of correct diagnostic tests to reach a differential diagnosis and a thorough understanding of evidence-based practices.
  • Command of medical and surgical conditions that may arise based on patient history, which should include signs and symptoms, treatments, and surgical procedures that may be necessary.
  • An ability to recognize patterns and validity of results for diagnostic purposes. In addition, physician assistants should be able to identify any potential interventions.
  • An ability to screen patients that may have a condition but are otherwise asymptomatic individuals.
  • A firm handle on disease prevention and health promotion activities.

Effective Communication Skills

Physician assistants will need to communicate with others daily. So strong verbal, non-verbal, and written communication will help ensure smooth coordination with healthcare teams, patients, and families.

Many patients have little knowledge about their own health, well-being, contributing behaviors to poor health, and remedies. In fact, experts estimate that 36% of the population is health illiterate. So communication skills are critical to explaining conditions and actions in a way that makes sense for the patient. Non-verbal skills also contribute to making patients feel comfortable when delivering diagnoses and other information.

The same communication skills help when speaking or writing to team members. Staff will have varying degrees of expertise, so interactions with office workers, social workers, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are more effective when a PA is well-versed in all facets of communication.

Flexible Critical Thinking

A physician assistant’s ability to make logical connections and exercise reflective and independent thinking are critical to the job. Each patient is an individual, which requires a PA to think critically about how to guide all stakeholders toward the most positive outcome.

Critical thinking skills need to extend across changing and unpredictable situations. When emergencies happen, PAs need to be able to assess and adapt to whatever is happening swiftly. Flexible critical thinking fits perfectly with the harried, challenging environment that many healthcare professionals work in.

Great Stress Management

Burnout is a significant challenge in the healthcare industry. Physician assistants are not exempt from the pressure of emergencies and long working hours, and many may fall prey to low morale. The recent pandemic has made this situation even worse: 27% of physician assistants surveyed last year reported many of the symptoms of burnout.

Strong coping and stress management skills are vital for success and providing optimal care under duress. A candidate should be able to show you that they can maintain a healthy work-life balance and be knowledgeable in specific coping skills they can use to counteract the effects of burnout.

Physician assistants play an ever-increasing critical role in caring for patients. The right skills to succeed go far beyond licensing and education. In order to find the best candidates with the skill discussed here, offers recruiters a credible, effective channel to post available positions.

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