For people who are interested in practising medicine but not specialise in some particular field, pursuing a career as a physician could be a great choice. Becoming a physician associate (PA) can be a great career path for graduates who want to have direct contact with patients but aren’t doctors or nurses.
PAs have an increasingly significant role to play in primary care as part of a multi-skilled workforce, alongside pharmacists and advanced nurse practitioners. They usually work in hospitals or GP surgeries, supporting doctors in diagnosis and handling patients. If you opt for a career as a PA, you’ll most often work in general practice, acute (internal) medicine and emergency medicine.
Find out more about what you need in order to pursue this career path in our PA career guide…
What does a Physician Associate (PA) do?
Professionals in this job work under the supervision of a doctor. The most common duties in this role include taking medical histories from patients, physical examinations, carrying out illness diagnosis and analysing test results. In addition, other responsibilities can be developing and delivering appropriate treatment and care management plans, evaluating the effectiveness of these plans, making home visits to patients as well as providing patients with advice and counselling on health promotion and disease prevention.
At the moment PAs cannot prescribe or request ionising radiation, chest x-ray or CT scan).
How to become a Physician Associate
To pursue a career as a PA you will have to get an undergraduate degree in health or life science. For instance, this could be in biology, biomedical science, nursing, chemistry or medical therapies. Then you can opt for a postgraduate physician associate diploma or a master’s course that is recognised by the Faculty of Physician Associates.
Another route to get into this profession is to apply for one of the training programmes available. These are usually full-time courses that last two years and combine theory as well as practical clinical experience. In these courses, you will get a background on general and community medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, mental health, paediatrics and obstetrics and gynaecology.
For individuals who are already working as registered healthcare professionals, you can also apply to become a PA.
As far as the skills and personal qualities, to be successful in this profession you’ll need to be sensitive, understanding, a good listener and able to understand people’s reactions. Also, being thorough and paying attention to detail, working well with others as well as accepting criticism and working well under pressure are of equal importance.
Salaries and career development
As the profile of PAs rises in the UK, the job prospects are increasingly encouraging. At the same time, the salary is also quite competitive. For instance, a newly-qualified Physician Assistant can expect to earn between £27K – 32K annually, excluding any adjustments for high-cost living areas.
Finally more experienced PAs can rise to around £44K annually and go on to earn between £45k and £52K per annum. For more senior positions, you will usually need at least five years’ experience and a relevant Masters degree.
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