Overcome PA School Interview Anxiety: Become an Agent of the SHIELD Technique!

Applying to become a PA can be a very stressful process. Between researching schools, writing your personal narrative, getting your application materials together, and making sure you have enough patient contact experience, you’ll have suffered through enough stress before you even step foot into your interview.

The stress felt prior to the interview room can be a bit easier to manage because you’re not necessarily put on the spot. Yes, you have a great deal of preparation to do and a lot of work ahead of you, but the stress can be managed on your own time. On interview day, the stress you feel must be dealt with and suppressed in that very moment, so it makes dealing with the stress all the more difficult.

PA school interview techniquesIf you find you’re having a hard time managing your stress, using the SHIELD technique can help you conquer your anxiety and help you navigate through stressful situations in real time. Simply Stop, Honor, Inhale, Exhale, Listen, Decide, and you’ll find you’ve “blocked” your stress from harming you any further (just like a shield!)

Here’s how you master each step of the SHIELD technique:

Stop: The instant you recognize that you’re feeling stressed, take a mental time out. Stop whatever you’re doing or saying for a brief moment and focus solely on managing your stress.

Honor: Take a moment to actually acknowledge what you’re feeling. Trying to overcome something that’s affecting your mental state without actually identifying the feelings simply won’t work. Once you can recognize that your anxiety is being caused by a tangible situation, you can start the process of working through it.

Inhale: It’s time to take control of your breathing. Consciously focusing on your breath is a great way to reduce your heart rate and get you back to a calm state so you can proceed calmly. Take a deep breath and hold it briefly.

Exhale: Let the air out of your lungs slowly and methodically. Picture the air as your pent up stress and anxiety slowly leaving your body. If you need to do this a few times, try to establish a breathing pattern with counts for how long you inhale, hold, and exhale (or even match your breathing up with this GIF.)

Listen: After taking a moment to refocus and breathe, listen to your thoughts and feelings. Try to find what aspect of the situation is making you stressed. Are you feeling claustrophobic because there are too many candidates around you? Is the room too hot, too cold, or uncomfortable for you in any way? Are you worried about things that “could” go wrong during the interview or is something concrete bothering you that can be changed? Is the stress completely external or internal? Isolating the cause of your stress can help you compartmentalize it and move on.

Decide: Now that you’ve isolated the cause of your stress, decide how you’re going to conquer it. If it’s an external problem, can it be remedied by changing something in your environment? If its an internal problem, can you shift from an anxious mindset to a confident one? Give yourself a pep talk, remind yourself how hard you’ve worked to get here, and help affirm any positive feelings instead of the anxious ones you may be feeling. If all else fails, try smiling- the physical act of doing this may help shift your mindset.