5 insights into life as a Physician Associate

Mohammed is a qualified and working Physician Associate and alongside this, he is a lecturer in Integrated Medical Sciences (on the MPAS course) here at The University of Bradford. In his blog, he gives us an insight into studying and working as a PA.

Physician Associate (PA), two buzz words now being heard a lot in healthcare circles. But what exactly is a PA? What does the training of a PA entail? And what is life actually like once you’ve qualified? Read this blog to find out more.

What is a PA?

You may have heard of PAs before but may not be quite sure what a PA actually does. PAs are very similar to doctors and work with other members of the healthcare team to see, diagnose and treat patients.

They are supervised by a senior colleague, who is often a GP or a consultant, and deliver patient-centred care in a healthcare setting – usually a GP surgery or a hospital. PAs are able to take medical histories, order and interpret investigations, perform medical examinations, carry out medical procedures and provide advice and education to patients.

At the moment, PAs aren’t regulated by a professional body so cannot prescribe or order things like X-rays and CT scans, however, PAs are equipped with the knowledge of when to prescribe drugs as well as knowing when particular investigations should be ordered.

Why train at Bradford?

At Bradford, we deliver the Master of Physician Associate Studies (MPAS). You will have a professional Master’s degree when you leave, meaning that alongside the clinical skills and the medical knowledge you gain, you also have the ability to conduct research and look at ways in which healthcare delivery can be improved. This is an important skill to possess as PAs will be expected to become involved with improving healthcare delivery in the future.

Bradford provides high standards of teaching using a variety of methods, with excellent teaching staff from a variety of backgrounds including medics, PAs and pharmacists to name but a few.

Finally, the University has a fantastic relationship with a variety of GP practices and hospital trusts that provide clinical placements. This allows you to apply your learning from the University to real-life work settings!

What’s it like on the course?

Whilst the course is intense (45 weeks out of 52, for two years), the skills and knowledge you gain are unbelievable. You become familiar with how various conditions present themselves, how they are diagnosed and how to manage affected patients safely. Alongside this, you develop consultation skills such as communication skills, examination and procedural skills. You will also learn about the importance of professionalism, allowing you to create your professional identity as a PA.

Coming into contact with patients through the placements gives you that first-hand experience of being involved in managing the care of patients. Working with other healthcare professions and medical teams further broadens your ability to make clinical decisions as well as allowing you to demonstrate how PAs can really make a difference to the team.

Working in a GP surgery

Once qualified, a popular career choice is to work in a GP practice. This can be seen as slightly daunting: the thought of having your own room, making decisions on your own and potentially facing anything that may come through the door. However, GP practice is an exciting area to work in and is going to be the main area where PAs become employed in the next few years.

In a GP setting, you will have an allocated GP supervisor who will be there to support you as you develop in your career. You may be asked to carry out a variety of duties including seeing acutely unwell patients, to carrying out reviews for patients with long term conditions. You may also get involved with baby checks, telephone triage or home or nursing home visits. As you develop in your career, you may then start carrying out specialised clinics (after some training) and supervise other PAs.

Working in a hospital

The other main career choice is to work in a hospital. The duties will vary depending on which ward you work at.

A common ward where PAs tend to work in is the acute medical ward. Here, you would work with the other doctors and carry out the ward round and the ward jobs such as the various procedural skills and medical examinations. You may then progress onto seeing patients in clinics and performing specialised procedures.

In the emergency department, your duties would be to see and assess patients coming into the department and manage their care appropriately.

Some PAs work in Mental Health Trusts where you could be managing the care of patients on an in-patient ward or working in the community and seeing patients in their homes. This is a growing area for PAs to work in due to the rise in mental health issues.

I hope the above has provided you with some insight into the life of a PA from studying to working.

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