Picmonic Learning System

Physician Assistant: 7 Characteristics of an Awesome PA

Being a physician assistant is more than just showing up for school lectures, making fancy flashcards, and passing the PANCE (with maybe some help from Picmonic as your awesome visual physician assistant study guide). Being a PA is also about being in the right mindset for helping people. Aside from being able to recall your studies, working as a PA requires some strong personality traits and skills that will allow you to be the best version of yourself no matter what the day brings. Some characteristics will always be welcomed on the floor so we wrangled up seven of the most important traits that make for a successful physician assistant career.


Your are compassionate!

It’s not surprising that one of the most important PA traits would be compassion. So much of your job is making sure people who aren’t feeling well and their family members are comfortable, treated fairly, and kept informed even when they’re not very nice. Having patience with your patients (no pun intended, but okay, a little bit pun intended) is key to having a long career as a great physician assistant.

Emotional Stability

Don't get stressed!

It can get tough out there. Not everything will go well all the time. It will be stressful, especially on days you’re working with patients who are in critical condition and their family members who could get emotional about it. But, as a physician assistant, you can’t let that get to you. Do your best work and don’t let other people’s emotions shake your own. Stay level-headed and in control even when things are chaotic. This can be difficult, of course, but if you know what to look out for it’s easier to avoid.

Believes There’s No ‘I’ in Team…but Can Work Alone


While you will work in tandem with a physician most days, there may be times you work independently on patients. In these instances, you need to know how to work well on your own and have confidence in your decisions. However, more often than not you may find yourself working with a team of medical professionals and together you must find a way to bring your patients the best care available… ideally without arguing in front of them.

Dots the I’s

Dotting the I's and crossing the T's

Detail oriented people who can assess a problem quickly do very well as PAs. To effectively diagnose a problem, remembering your lessons from school is key. Did you know using Picmonic’s mnemonic study aids can help you recall up to 330% more than just studying with a textbook? That means when you see patients, you won’t miss a thing and you’ll get them on their way to feeling better in no time.

Adapts Like a Champ

Like a champ!

Sometimes working in medicine requires rapid attention changes, relocating, and new responsibilities. That’s just how it works! A patient’s condition can change fast, leaving one plan on the floor and a new one being made up on the fly. The ability to adapt quickly to changes is a great attribute to have as a PA.



It takes bravery to be able to help people. Patients are often worried, as are their families, and you will be the one they look up to. You’re their Obi-Wan, if you will, and a lot of times you may end up seeing the patient more than their doctor, so don’t be afraid to make a note when you think something is wrong or even ask for assistance or a second set of eyes if you think you need it. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is ask someone for help.

Hard Working (synonymous with physician assistant)

Working hard!

Working as a PA means you might have weird, wonky hours – and a lot of them. Having the want to work hard will make you an excellent PA. Your workload might be larger than you thought and you might be surprised by how physically and emotionally strenuous the job is, but having daily end goals will help you move through the day with purpose and poise.

Keeping these seven characteristics in mind will help you when you’re on rotations as a PA. Of course, to even become a PA you have to pass the PANCE. Sure, the test sounds scary, but with some help from Picmonic’s visual study aids you can ace the PANCE and be the best PA ever. Try it for free today!

Being a PA: Is it Right for You?

Being a physician assistant isn’t right for everyone, but if it’s a career path you’re considering, you should have the right traits and characteristics. The top three qualities a physician assistant can have are interpersonal, problem-solving, and soft skills, but the most important quality to consider is a PA’s ability to perform their job and put the patient first. 

Would you make a good physician assistant? Most physician assistants are described as hard-working, detail-oriented, adaptable, and effective communicators. If you’re considering becoming a PA, ask yourself if you have the seven characteristics we listed above and the following:

Are you efficient?

You have to keep up the pace. A great PA helps busy practices keep the gears turning. When you take your patient’s history diligently without rushing them, make clear-cut clinical decisions, and communicate effectively, you’ll improve overall patient flow and office productivity. 

Are you empathetic?

When you’re empathetic to your patients, patients will view you as considerate and caring. Consider a patient’s situation from their point of view. By treating them with compassion, you can maintain your patient relationships. Patients want to be reminded that you’re human too, and trust me, you don’t want them to leave with a sour taste in their mouths.

Are you confident and humble?

 To be a PA, you need to have confidence in your skills. Physicians rely on you to know your stuff and make decisions. If you’re constantly doubting yourself, a physician will have trouble putting their confidence in you as well. As long as you’re doing your job correctly and effectively, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. However, you should know when to seek outside help and call your physician. If you ever aren’t 100% sure about something, speak up. It’s always better to double-check than to make a mistake. 

Are you an effective communicator?

You must speak clearly, concisely, and accurately as a PA. This should be a common practice for you, as it is for all medical students, but it’s important to model clear communication to keep everything running smoothly. You’re going to be talking to a lot of people including patients and staff members. It’s a skill we often forget, but it’s greatly appreciated.

Are you honest?

Honesty is an important quality to have as a person, but it is especially important to be a PA. You should always list every finding in complete detail to avoid possible errors. Even when errors occur, being honest is the best policy. 

If you’ve said yes to these qualities and you’re trying to be a stand-out PA candidate, let’s go over what characteristics PA schools look for. PA schools will look for overall experience, drive, and authenticity throughout your application. 


PA schools look for healthcare and patient care experience. Use details from your experience to demonstrate why you’d be an amazing candidate. Rather than just listing your responsibilities and roles, try to communicate what you learned.


A compelling personal statement showing that you are committed and driven to become a PA is key to getting you an interview. Describe why you want to be a PA and how your experiences have given you the characteristics to take on such a role. You should also demonstrate how you interact well with others, understand information to perform the duties of PA, and are passionate about the field.


Being your authentic self is going to help you when interviewing for a PA school. However, you do want to be positive in your interview–don’t undermine yourself and your abilities. Instead, talk about your experiences and what you can bring to the table. Highlight what makes you unique. That is why you’re being interviewed, after all.

Once you’re accepted to PA school, use Picmonic as your PA study guide. Our fun, memorable picture mnemonics will make sure you’re set to pass your exams with flying colors. Explore our PA resources today.

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