Becoming a Physician Associate

A physician associate is a healthcare worker who works alongside doctors in hospitals and GP surgeries. The role is a type of mid-level health care provider. However they may also serve as a principle healthcare provider. In their role they diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans and may prescribe medication.

To coordinate health and care services you need a large variety of allied healthcare professionals aside from just Doctors and Nurses. Physician associates are playing an increased role as part of the multi-skilled NHS workforce, delivering high quality safe and effective care. It is a newly developing role in the NHS. Currently there are only 350 practising associates. However, as part of the recent five-year plan for primary Care the NHS have described how they must diversify service delivery and adapt to the shortages of GPs. This means that recruitment of physician associates in the community will greatly increase.

Physician Associate- Health Careers

FAQs

Is being a physician associate a good job?

The role is very esteemed with average salaries varying between £30.401 to £43,772 / year.

What does a physician associate do?

Physician associates work directly with patients. Prospective students must have a compassionate nature as in the role professionals must approach consultations, colleagues, and carers with kindness. An associate must acquire the skills and knowledge required for clinical reasoning and interpretation. Through study and practice you will develop the skills to perform clinical examinations, administer tests, treatments and analyse test results. They must have excellent problem-solving skills formulating and integrating a rounded medical history to deliver a differential diagnosis. Similarly, to a doctor, physician associates interact with patients as part of the shared decision-making process.

How does the role of a Physician associate differ from a Nurse Practitioner?

Within both professions individuals must use their clinical aptitude and emotional intelligence to facilitate delivery of care as part of the multidisciplinary team. Both professionals interact with patients actively listening to their wants and needs, showing them empathy.

There are several differences between the roles. The role of a nurse mostly involves the direct delivery of care to patients. This may be dealing with wound dressing and stitches, taking blood, and delivering bloods and injections. In contrast a physician associates may be more involved in clinical reasoning and working with clinical information. They may interact with a greater variety of patients where they are described as generalists opposed the nurses who specialise in adult, child, mental health or learning disability nursing. As an associate you will treat children, adults and the elderly who all present a variety of care needs.

Can physician associates prescribe?

Note taking cartoon - Becoming a Physician Associate

A nurse may train as an independent prescriber, prescribing medication within their competencies. You may have heard of the GMC or Nursing and Midwifery Council; these are formal governing bodies of all individuals in the nursing and medical career. In this career, there is no formal regulatory body equivalent to these. This limits the capacity of these professionals to complete certain tasks such as writing prescriptions. However, professionals are advised to join the Physician associate managed voluntary register. In future a professional regulatory body will broaden the potential roles of an associate where they will have greater legal and professional accountability. In the role the professionals are permitted to issue sick notes and prescribe medication however prescriptions must be signed and checked by a doctor.  

How to become a physician associate

University

There are several career pathways to become a physician associate. This may involve completing a university degree, apprenticeship or transferring from another care role.

Graduate cartoon - Becoming a Physician Associate

There are 29 universities within the UK which offer postgraduate degrees. A full list of universities offering this course can be found on the UCAS website. Following completion of a degree in life or healthcare science physician associates will study the theory and practice needed in the role over a 2-year period. Other healthcare professionals such as Nurses and Midwives may be eligible to study on these programmes. Students will graduate with a diploma or master’s course that is recognised by the Faculty of Physician Associates.  Students will be working in clinical environments receiving a minimum of 1,600 hours of clinical training throughout their second degree. Eligibility to complete this diploma or course requires 3 A-levels of equivalent, including a science and a degree.

See below a table of Physician Associate programmes available across a variety of UK Universities.

UniversityDegree
Anglia Ruskin UniversityMSc Physician Associate Studies (PAS)
Brighton and Sussex Medical SchoolPostgraduate Clinical Diploma in PAS
Bucks New UniveristyPostgraduate Diploma Physician Associate
Canterbury Christ Church UniverityPgDip PAS
Hull York Medical SchoolMSc PAS
Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and DentistryPgDip PAS
Sheffield Hallam UniversityPgDip PAS
London, St George’s University of LondonMSc PAS
BirminghamPgDip PAS
UCLan, University of Central LancashirePgDip PAS
Norwich, East AngliaMSc PAS
LeedsPgDip PAS
ManchesterPgDip PAS
Reading UniversityPostgraduate Diploma Physician Associate
SurreyPgDip Physician Associate
Bristol, University of the West of EnglandMSc PAS
WolverhamptonPgDip PAS
WorcesterMSc Physician Associate
BradfordMSc PAS
London, Brunel UniversityMSc PAS
Newcastle UniversityPgDip PAS
SheffieldPgDip PAS
SwanseaPgDip Physician Associate Studies; MSc Physician Associate Studies
LiverpoolPgDip PAS
AberdeenPgDip PAS
Bangor, University of Wales PgDip PAS

Apprenticeship

Institute for Apprenticeships – Physician Associate

Worker Cartoon. Becoming a Physician Associate.

Physician associate apprenticeships take 30-36 months to complete and involve academic teaching alongside clinical practice. The entry requirements are employer dependant. More information can be found in the apprenticeships section on NHS jobs.

Check out Medic Mind’s guidance on other healthcare related careers.

How long does it take to become a physician associate?

Following completion of a degree in life or healthcare science physician associates will study the theory and practice needed in the role over a 2-year period. Physician associate apprenticeships take 30-36 months to complete and involve academic teaching alongside clinical practice.

How much do physician associates make?

The role of a physician associate is very esteemed with average salaries varying between £30.401 to £43,772 / year.

Is physician associate a good career?

A physician associate is a newly developing role in the NHS. Currently there are only 350 practising associates. However, as part of the recent five-year plan for primary Care the NHS have described how they must diversify service delivery and adapt to the shortages of GPs. This means that recruitment of physician associates in the community will greatly increase.

What is a physician associate in the UK?

Physician associates work directly with patients. Prospective physician associate students must have a compassionate nature as in the role professionals must approach consultations, colleagues, and carers with kindness. A physician associate must acquire the skills and knowledge required for clinical reasoning and interpretation. Through study and practice you will develop the skills to perform clinical examinations, administer tests, treatments and analyse test results. A physician associate must have excellent problem-solving skills formulating and integrating a rounded medical history to deliver a differential diagnosis. Similarly, to a doctor, physician associates interact with patients as part of the shared decision-making process.

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