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Physician Associate Studies


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.

Clinical Attachments:

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.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be graduates with at least a 2:2 degree classification (or equivalent overseas qualification) in a life science or health-related subject (which must contain significant elements of basic medical sciences), normally obtained within the last five years. Applicants must also have experience of paid or voluntary work with people, preferably in a health or social care context; a pass in GCSE Maths and English Language grades A-C; evidence of English language attainment if English is not the first language.

Applicants with non-standard entry qualifications which do not meet all the above criteria may be considered for entry at the discretion of the Course Director/Committee. These potential applicants may be asked to submit a transcript from their undergraduate degree programme or asked to take some further modules in basic medical sciences to meet the required levels of sciences required for application to the PA programme.

Offers are made on the basis of the written application and an interview/assessment process held on campus in Northern Ireland. You will also be required along with your application to submit a short personal statement outlining why you are applying for the course. Due to the nature of the programme you will be expected to undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, police checks in line with NI law and occupational health screening. Offers are conditional, based on the successful completion of these processes.

Applicants must declare if they have been on another PA programme or a medical/healthcare professional register as per the application form and reasons for leaving the programme or register (where applicable). Failure to declare this will result in termination of the application or place on the programme. If you are already a registered healthcare professional you will be required to provide details of your registration.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 7.0 with no element score less than 7.0.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Exemptions and transferability

There is no accreditation of prior learning (APL) or accreditation or prior experiential learning (APEL) for this programme.



This is a full-time 2-year intensive programme running over 90 weeks from January to December in both year one and year two of the programme. Students are expected to attend 100% of the time to all sessions both in University and when on clinical attachment. If a student's attendance is unsatisfactory and given that students are training to become future healthcare professionals they will be brought before a student progress board and possibly a fitness to practice panel.

Careers or further progression

Career options

There have already been jobs advertised in Northern Ireland for experienced PAs and for newly graduated PAs as part of a New Graduate Year in a broad range of specialities across Northern Ireland. Our commitiment is to train and retain our graduates in Northern Ireland and we work with the Department of Health, the HSCTs and primary care providers to achieve this.

Once qualified, PAs can work across a range of specialities throughout medicine. There are also opportunities to work in education and as potential future leaders of the PA profession.

The qualification is not recognised in the USA and currently graduates who train in the UK may only be able to work in the UK. This may change in time.

Further enquiries

Course Director: Mr Daniel Meehan

Admissions Office
T: +44 (0)28 7012 3210

Subjects taught


The PgDip consists of taught modules and clinical competence modules which totals 180 credits.

BMS711 Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 1 (35 credits)

BMS712 Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 1 (45 credits)

BMS713 Research Methods & Evidence-based Medicine (10 credits)

BMS706 Professional Practice & Clinical Placement (45 credits)

BMS707 Foundations of Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2 (15 credits)

BMS710 Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2 (30 credits)

To exit with the PgDip in Physician Associate Studies, students will be required to pass all assignments relating to the modules BMS711, BMS712, BMS713, BMS706, BMS707 and BMS710.

Students in year 1 who fail the assessment associated with the Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 1 module but who have passed the module Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 1 and passed the other module Research Methods & Evidence Based Medicine may exit with the lower award of Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Sciences (noting that students must pass all modules in year 1 to progress to year 2).

Students in year 2 who fail the assessments associated with the Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2 module but who have passed the module Foundations in Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2 and passed the other module Professional Practice and Clinical Placement may exit with the lower award of Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Sciences.

In year 2 students will be required to pass the Foundations of Clinical Medicine & Pharmacology 2, Clinical Placements & Professional Practice and Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Studies 2. The Clinical & Professional Competence in Physician Associate Skills module will assess the core competencies and core procedural skills in the Competence and Curriculum Framework for Physician Assistants and has been designated Pass/Fail. There are two assessments in this module, a 200 MCQ SBA written paper and a 12 station OSCE. This competency assessment will be undertaken prior to taking the UK Physician Associate National Certification Examination. A pass in all taught modules of the programme will be required for the award of the PgDip in PA Studies.

This is a complex and very intensive programme and involves the establishment of a new suite of student placements and assessments, therefore, in the first instance, the course team do not intend to offer the masters programme and only intend to offer the PgDip. Once the programme has been established then the team will roll in the possibility to complete the masters by completion of the 60 credit Service Improvement Project module. This 60 credit module, when active, could either be taken alongside the second year of the full-time taught modules that comprise the PgDip or it can be taken part time over 3 semesters of a third year as a top-up.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date: January 2020

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