The Physician Associate will see you now… The what?

Not many people get two stabs at being a student and to some people the thought of putting yourself through two degrees isn’t an appealing one. However, for Thomas Fathers, the opportunity to become a medical professional was one too good to turn down. Thomas has recently graduated from the PGDip Physician Associate Studies course and here, he gives us an insight in to the course and how he’s been getting on since graduating…even if he still isn’t totally sure what a Physician Associate is…


So let’s cut straight through the cheese, no one knows what a physician associate is, not you, not me, and especially not my mum. One thing I can be sure about however is that times are a changing, and most certainly for the better.

In the beginning

Like all good origin stories, the road to studying as a PA started in a bar over a drink. The more I looked into what a PA was the more it tickled my interest – pioneering a new course, a chance to work in the medical field, and an opportunity to finally make my family proud!

Taken straight from the poster, the role would consist of: Being able to take patient histories, performing examinations and procedures, diagnosing and treating conditions, and generally providing a smooth continuation of care. The one downside being that by law we can’t prescribe yet. Now after going through that list, I would have been a fool to pass up the opportunity, so I applied. Oh ye of little faith, I was not ready for the journey that was to bring me to where I am today.


University round two

Spoiler alert, I got into the University of Manchester. A prestigious establishment it its own right, it became very apparent early on that although this was a pilot course, there was a desire to pave the way forward and create a high quality learning environment. Of course, like with all things new, there were some teething issues. But regardless there was always an ethos of setting the bar high and overcoming all obstacles.

The course length is two years with first year starting off with an intensive 16 week block where you learn a different topic each week,  followed by eight weeks worth of different placements in various hospitals and GPs. The second year takes a more specialist approach, alternating between shorter weeks at university and blocks of placement. A variety of teaching methods are used, some new ideas and others emulated from different courses. This included weekly problem based learning cases, workshops, communications sessions with simulated patients, sessions with different courses, weekly multiple choice questions, anatomy sessions, specialist talks, and of course lectures.


The intense nature of the course seemed overwhelming at times, but ultimately it also gave rise to strong friendships and a long lasting circle of people who I could depend on.  If there was anything to take from going back to university, it’s to enjoy yourself. Don’t be afraid to take a step back from the intense nature of the course and revive that student that you thought had perished. Say yes to that drink, go explore the city you’re in, join whatever society floats your boat; it’s the perfect chance to meet new people all over again.

Goodbye lie ins, hello multiple alarms

It still feels quite unbelievable that my second round of being a student has been and gone, and now we’ve all been unleashed into the wider world as wide eyed and eager professional curtain pullers and coffee runners. I jest of course, I’m just over a month into the role and I already feel like an asset to the team.


In the mornings I arrive an hour before the medical team in order to prep the notes for the ward round. This also helps with having a personal review of the patients and scanning to see if there were any changes from the previous day. During the ward round I help scribe for the doctor who assesses each patient, assisting with reviewing the bloods and any imaging that has been done. At this time the jobs list is compiled, this can consist of things such as ordering and taking bloods, inserting catheters or cannulas, writing referrals, writing discharge letters (without the prescription bit), and last and certainly least, pin-balling around various people on the phone.

So it all leads to this point now, sat in the office typing away brew in hand, looking busy so no one shouts at me. The future of a PA is unknown, but everything starts somewhere, and I’m excited to play a part in developing the role and I would encourage anyone else thinking about it to become a PA too and do the same.

Right, back to the grind.


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