The Physician Associate is a rapidly growing healthcare role in the UK, working alongside doctors in hospitals in GP surgeries.
Physician Associates support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. They are trained to perform a number of roles including: taking medical histories, performing examinations, analysing test results, and diagnosing illnesses under the direct supervision of a doctor.
Training follows a combined apprenticeship and preceptorship model where it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they learn and the provider’s responsibility to ensure that students are able to work with a suitably diverse range of patients.
It is recommended that students spend eight half-days per week (minimum requirement of six half-days) working in clinical environments, with appropriate levels of patient contact.
It is appropriate for students to work with (and be taught by) a wide range of healthcare professionals, although it is expected that the majority of their time will be spent working with doctors or qualified physician associates. The student’s supervisor must be a consultant, general practitioner or senior physician associate.
Students will be expected to complete clinical assessments (history and examination) on a minimum of six patients per week and they should have the opportunity to present a minimum of two patients per week to a doctor or qualified physician associate.
length of placement
A typical placement for an undergraduate physician associate is 8 weeks, although it can also vary from 3 to 6 weeks. This is dependent on where they are up-to with their studies.
supervision and assessment
Trainees and fully qualified physician associates are described as dependent practitioners and will always work under the supervision of a designated doctor. Their detailed scope of practice in a given setting is circumscribed by that of the supervising doctor. Although there may be circumstances when the supervising doctor is not physically present, they will always be readily available for consultation. The trainee is responsible for their own practice; though the supervising doctor always maintains the ultimate responsibility for the patient.
The student’s supervisor must be a consultant, general practitioner or senior physician associate.
Students are expected to complete Procedural Skills Assessments appropriate to General Practice. This process is student led and although supervisors are not responsible for ‘chasing’ students they should discuss procedural skills signoffs at supervisory meetings. Meetings are advised on a weekly basis; at minimum, the start, middle and end.
PROFESSIONAL, STATUTORY AND REGULATORY BODIES (PSRBS)
The Faculty of Physician Associates is the professional body for the physician associate profession in the UK.
Universities are the statutory bodies responsible for delivering and awarding higher education qualifications.
The Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) is held exclusively by the Faculty of Physician Associates (FPA), and allows employers to check whether an applicant or employee is a fully qualified and approved physician associate.
Regulation is on the way!
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) have now formally asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to regulate Physician Associates (PAs) and Anaesthesia Associates (AAs). After years of campaigning regulation is now in sight, but we are not quite there yet!