What Does the Training Involve?
Physician associates undergo two years (full-time) postgraduate training based on the Competence and Curriculum Framework for physician associates (DoH 2012). Training consists of intensive theoretical learning in medical sciences, pharmacology and clinical reasoning as well as over 1400 hours of clinical placement experience in community and acute care settings.
Newly graduated physician associates complete a third internship year with a doctor to solidify and deepen their skills. As a result of their training, physician associates are flexible and adaptable healthcare professionals with a strong medical foundation.
Will I have time for another job?
All programmes are two years (full-time). Whilst several students have a part time job in order to fund their time on the programme, they many find that this impacts on their studies. The time and dedication required can make it very difficult to study and have a job. Due to the workload it is highly recommended you use your time out of class carefully to ensure you can work efficiently; this might mean spending time relaxing, or keeping up academically, rather than earning money. However, 'where there is a will there is a way' and those who have had a job have also gone on to do well in their studies.
How much will it cost?
Please contact universities directly for information regarding fees.
It should be noted that currently an NHS bursary is not available to study on any of the physician associate courses in the UK. However, efforts are being made to address this.
Some of the physician associate programmes as postgraduate diplomas and other are Master's programmes. For postgraduate diploma programmes, applicants are not eligible for student loans, however if you start a full-time or part-time master’s course after 1 August 2016 you can apply for a postgraduate loan.
Another funding option would be to apply for a career development loan from high street banks. These loans allow you to borrow between £300 and £10,000, depending on your situation, which you pay back once you have stopped studying.
When considering the cost of the training you should also take into account the need for medical textbooks, equipment such as a stethoscope, smart clothes and travel to GP and hospital placements.
What are the job prospects like?
As the profile of physician associates within the UK rises, job prospects are increasingly encouraging. Currently in England and Scotland, physician associates can be found working in the following areas:
- GP surgery
- Hospital inpatient ward
- Hospital intensive care unit
- Hospital operating theatre
- Hospital outpatient department
- Medical assessment unit or acute medical unit
- Rehabilitation Facility
- Specialist surgery
- Walk in centre / out of hours
- Hospital based liaison psychiatry service
- Other psychiatry service
Permanent positions following graduation are not guaranteed. However, the NHS and the Department of Health have undertaken detailed projections for workforce planning over the next 20 years which indicates a continued need to expand the type and range of practitioner level qualifications to ensure that the NHS can respond to the changing needs of the nation's health in the twenty-first century.
Newly qualified physician associates even without previous health care experience can expect to earn between £27-£32k (excluding indemnity fees or adjustments of high cost living areas).
For further information on careers, visit the NHS Careers website.
Can I work outside the UK?
It is not currently possible for physician associates who have trained in the UK to practice outside of the UK. However, whilst efforts are currently being concentrated on producing UK graduates specifically for the NHS, effort is also being put into working with the American Academy of physician associates and other European agencies to try to achieve recognition and mutuality of academic achievements across nations. This is with a view to ensure that the physician associate qualification will be transferable in the future.
Are there electives abroad?
Currently, all elective placements are held within the UK. This is partly due to the profession awaiting registration, but also because clinical placements are a great opportunity to act as ambassadors for the role. Word is still getting out about physician associates, so it is important that physician associate students are getting out in practice in the UK, explaining the role and improving the exposure of the profession in different institutions.
Depending on the university, there are a number of options to choose from for your elective placements in an exciting range of specialties.