What is a Physician Associate?

A Physician Associate (PA) is a dependent health care professional who has been trained to the medical model and works under the supervision of a Consultant or GP.

The Department of Health defines a PA as a “new healthcare professional who, while not a doctor, works to the medical model, with the attitudes, skills, knowledge base to deliver holistic care and treatment within the general medical and/or general practice team under defined levels of supervision” (DOH, 2006).

PAs take medical histories, conduct comprehensive physical exams, request and interpret tests, diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, and counsel on preventive health care. PAs are trained to be generalists and must pass a National Assessment at the end of their training and also pass a generalist recertification exam every 6 years.

Qualified PAs are employed by the Trust or Surgery at which they work. The result is a flexible healthcare professional who adapts to their supervising physicians needs and who is able to provide consistency and continuity to patients and the healthcare team.

The concept of the PA was first proposed in America in 1961 by Charles Hudson. He recommended to the American Medical Association that there was a need to develop a new role for people with non-medical and non-nursing backgrounds. The first cohort launched when the Duke University Medical Centre assembled their first class in 1965. This was largely composed of US Navy Hospital corpsmen who had offered first line care during the Vietnam War but had no formal medical education. There are now over 110,000 qualified PAs in the US.

In 2006, in the UK, the Department of Health (DOH) along with a number of the Royal Colleges developed the Core Curriculum Framework (CCF) for the PA and a matrix of conditions that PAs should be competent in assessing, identifying and treating. It also specifies the minimum number of hours that the training courses should offer teaching for and outlines the clinical placement requirements.

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KSS School of Physician Associates
Post Graduate Education Centre
East Surrey Hospital
Canada Drive

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