How to become a physician associate
What it takes to be a physician associate
- School / college
3 A levels, or equivalent, including at least 1 science
a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study, usually science-based. This includes biology, biomedical science, nursing, pharmacy or chemistry.
- Postgraduate course
After your degree you can study a 2-year, full-time, postgraduate physician associate diploma or master’s course that is recognised by the Faculty of Physician Associates.
A day in the life of a physician associate
What you’ll do
Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.
You’ll deal directly with adults and children with a wide range of medical conditions. You’ll support the work of the medical team and provide care for patients with long term health problems.
You’ll do many of the day-to-day tasks of doctors, like:
- take medical histories
- examine patients
- diagnose and make referrals
- create a healthcare management plan
- take part in clinics
- perform medical procedures
- treat and advise patients with chronic or long term health conditions
- give advice on keeping healthy and promote wellbeing
You could work in an NHS or private hospital or at a health centre. Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding. You may need to wear a uniform.
Podcast – Physician Associate
What we would like to discuss with you is what its like to work physician associate. We have a few questions to ask: what is it really like being a PA? How did you at the age of 17 or 18 decide what you wanted to do? And were there any challenges that you had to overcome?
How did you become a Physician Associate?
So I started by doing biomedical science as an undergraduate degree. To be honest, I actually did want to do medicine, but I wasn’t smart enough and I wasn’t getting the grades. I enjoyed studying biomedical science and I went on to work in different labs. Over time I just thought this isn’t for me. I wanted to actually speak to people and get to know people and help them with their medical issues. I was thinking should I go for medicine again? Then I heard about the physician associate course and I thought this is perfect. It’s two years full time and you can sort of work alongside different medical specialties depending on what interests you. I’m now in my third year working as a physician associate at Hiyos and I was here as a PA student too.
How was the physician associate course?
I would say that it’s a really, really tough course. Those two years were really intense. Its like squeezing 5-6 years of Med school into two full time years with lots of assignments. But it it’s worth it. You do lectures and then you do loads of clinical placements could be in a GP or a hospital.
Why did you choose to be a physician associate in a GP?
As a PA student, and even now, I don’t have a specific interest. I like seeing lots of different things in one day. I see skin stuff, heart stuff, colds and tummy things. So I see a variety of things whereas other people love doing heart stuff, so they work in cardiology or they love lungs and they work in respiratory. So it really just depends on what interests you. I kind of like keeping it open and just seeing loads of different things and that’s the whole point of being a PA.
Is there a conversion course to become a doctor?
I don’t think there is currently a sort of shortcut way of being a doctor from a PA . I think that you would have to do the whole medicine programme again or from scratch.
Which university did you study at and was your degree funded?
I went to Brunel. Significantly, I was part of the first cohort of PA so I was a guinea pig. My course was not funded, but you can get some funding now I believe. At the time I saved up after my undergraduate course because I knew that I wanted to study a little bit more but I wasn’t quite sure what. There may be some funding available as things are changing now but I’m not quite sure what the amounts are.
How is the work life balance as a PA?
Really good if you work in a GP setting because you don’t need to do any night shifts. It all depends on what works for you as some people might like night shifts.
What A Levels did you take?
I studied psychology, chemistry and biology.
How was the application?
I had to write essays. There were 2 questions: why do you want to be a PA? and how does a PA fit in the NHS?
Is it easy to get jobs as a PA?
I believe so. I think there’s a lot of jobs out there for PAs, I don’t think you’ll struggle, but it depends on where you would want to work and if you’ve got special interests. In terms of GP jobs, especially in primary care, I think there’s loads of job opportunities.
Are they selective with which university you studied at?
It doesn’t matter where you go because at the end of it, every PA student will have to take a national exam. Also, everyone will sit the same national exam, so as long as you pass that, it doesn’t matter where you’ve studied.