A Physician Associate is a healthcare professional trained in the medical model to work with the medical team in order to deliver medical care to patients. PAs work under the supervision of a doctor in a range of specialities in both primary and secondary care. PAs are trained to take medical histories, carry out physical examinations, formulate diagnosis, request and interpret tests and investigations, undertake procedures and develop treatment and management plans.
The PgDip in Physician Associate Studies aims to ensure students receive the required education and training in line with requirements of the Competence and Curriculum Framework, enabling graduates to be successful in completion of the programme and the PA National Exam. It also aims to ensure that graduates are safe and competent clinicians, at the point of qualification.
This intensive programme is delivered over 2 years. Year 1 is mainly theoretical and University based (5 days/ week) with 1 day per week in general practice (~100hrs). Year 2 is mainly spent on clinical attachment with one day every 10 weeks back in University. Students will develop a sound knowledge base in clinical medicine and develop comprehensive clinical examination skills which form the basis of their generalist medical education enabling them to enter work in any medical speciality. From that point, they develop the specialist knowledge required to progress their careers and care for patients
Students must pass all elements of the programme to be eligible to sit the National PA Exam for entry into professional practice.
The course is designed to ensure that graduates have the relevant clinical knowledge and skills in order to be successful in attaining their professional qualification and in their subsequent professional working life as a Physician Associate.
Year one specifically concentrates on the basic medical sciences that support the teaching and application of clinical medicine. In conjunction with this, a significant of time is spent on communication and clinical examination skills as these form the basis of the skills that the PA will use throughout their clinical working lives. In addition to this, the PA student will spend 1 day per week in clinical attachment (General Practice) to rehearse and fine tune their skills.
Year 2 begins in early January with the clinical placements in the Health and Social Care Trusts and primary care. The core areas of placement are Acute & General Medicine, General Practice, Emergency Medicine, Mental Health, General Surgery, Paediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Care of the Elderly and Elective Placement. Placements are pass/fail and there are formative and summative assessments throughout the year with end of year summative written and OSCEs.
Teaching and learning assessment
The programme uses a variety of teaching methods to deliver the curriculum. Students will learn through classroom, problem, peer assisted and practice based learning. Students will also be expected to be independent and self-directed in their studies using all of the opportunities available to practice and revise. Students are required to participate in sessions particularly clinical exam skills and must be motivated to engage.
The programme uses both formative and summative methods to assess students. These are in the form of essays, reflections, case histories, single best answer MCQs, short answer questions, and OSCE examinations.
The course content will be delivered by appropriately qualified healthcare professionals who are expert in their fields and understand the role of the PA.
Work placement / study abroad
Clinical placement is a core element of this programme and is delivered over both years. It is fundamental ensuring that students are able to practice application of their newly acquired clinical medical knowledge and skills. In year one students spend one day per week in a general practice environment and in year two will complete the following placements. Please note this information is provisional and subject to change.
10 weeks Acute Medicine
6 weeks A&E
6 weeks GP plus 12 one day sessions in year 1
3 weeks Obstetrics and Gynaecology
3 weeks Paediatrics
4 weeks General Surgery
4 weeks Mental Health
4 weeks Care of the Elderly
3 weeks of Electives
These placements will be based in and around Northern Ireland and students will be required to travel distances to their placements.