A Physician Associate is a member of the allied clinical team, they are trained like a Doctor in an intense two year masters degree, where they provide continuity of care, supporting Doctors in clinical practice under the direction of a Doctor. A Physician Associate will undertake similar tasks to a Doctor including examination, diagnosis and management of patients. A Physician Associate will tend to be a generalist and could therefore spend their career across a variety of specialisms in hospital or general practice.
Becoming a PA or a doctor is an exciting career choice. Both involve a lot of hard work, and PA programmes are becoming increasingly competitive to gain entry to. This decision is tough and it comes down to what you value in a career. Becoming a PA is a shorter route than a doctor, but involves an extremely intense education given the responsibility that is held once qualified. Therefore PA can be a great career for someone who wants to deliver medical care to patients but would prefer a shorter training route and perhaps a more flexible work\life balance when working.
PAs are also designed to be flexible generalists, this means you can choose the area you work in. You could work in emergency medicine for a few years then move to surgery then to obstetrics & gynaecology. Doctors are training to become specialists in an area they have chosen. Ultimately, consultants and GPs supervise PAs and trainee doctors. PAs can gain specialist skills and roles such as: assisting in theatre, running minor operation lists in GP, delivering outpatient appointments, teaching PAs and junior doctors, etc. This all depends on the area worked in, experience of the PA in that area and agreement with their supervisor. This control over your development as a PA and its potential is exciting. Choosing either role can be difficult, particularly as PA is still in its infancy with constant development. There are lots of myths and inaccuracies around the PA role, so speaking to or shadowing a PA will give the best insight into deciding if PA is for you.
A Physician Associate (PA) is educated through either a 4 year intercalated MPAS undergraduate programme or a 2 year masters programme after an undergraduate degree. This means PAs do not go to medical school to become doctors. PAs diagnose, investigate and manage patients in a role of their own right. They do this under the supervision of a consultant or GP (similar to a doctor in training), however PAs do not rotate placements of training- they offer continuity of care and stability to the medical team. This means they can support junior doctors who are gaining specialist training. PAs do not replace doctors, but are there to enhance the delivery of medical care. PAs may develop specialist skills or have more autonomy with experience, but are expected to maintain a generalist knowledge also.
Our Student Stories
"The clinical skills sessions on Friday are such fun, we learn everything from how to inject anesthesia (into oranges!) and suture incisions to learning the cardinal signs for someone in heart failure and the appropriate examination to take. Everyone on the cohort is so friendly and it honestly as cliché as it may sound, it feels like one big family, we run regular revision sessions to help each other out. Placement is also really great, the buzz of working in a hospital or general practice and seeing your own patients with the clinical supervision and support makes you feel as if you are already qualified and working as a PA."
Find out more about Rabhia's Story
A Physician Associate (PA) typically starts on a Band 7 pay scale (currently £38,890). However some PA internships for newly qualified PAs start on a band 6 and may involve rotations. PAs are able to progress to a Band 8 or further pay increases with experience; management, education and research roles in addition to clinical responsibilities are examples of how this occurs.
Physician Associates cannot currently prescribe medications in the UK due to the law. PAs are educated and trained to recommend prescriptions and medications after they have assessed patients and diagnosed a condition indicating medication. Prescriptions are then usually signed/written by a prescriber. This law will likely change when the GMC register for PAs commences (currently planned end of 2021) and the law changed. This constant development of the PA roles makes it an exciting time to join the profession.
What does Physician Associate Studies cover?
Physician Associate Studies MPAS covers many of the topics in Medicine and focuses on the areas and skills necessary to support Doctors in Clinical decision making which are reflected in the key role a Physician Associate plays in a clinical team. Throughout the two year MPAS you can expect to cover a range of topics from; Clinical Skills, Healthcare Law, Research and Evidenced based practice, Violence and Aggression and Public Health and Life Long learning skills vital to maintaining a strong clinical skills set throughout your career.
Want to know more?
We have so much more we want to share with you, why not visit our Physician Associate course page, for a more detailed look at the course, entry requirements and how you will be taught.
Want to find out More about Swansea
Feeling inspired to train for a career in the NHS? Take the time to explore our campus from the comfort of your own home using our virtual tour, talk to some of our current students about what it is like studying at Swansea and make sure you register for our next Open Day where you can experience Swansea, our community and our courses in person.