What is a Physician Associate?

What is a Physician Associate (PA-R)

As Physician Associates we are medically trained, generalist healthcare professionals. We work alongside doctors, providing medical care as an integral part of the multidisciplinary team.


What do you need to do to become a Physician Associate?

To become a Physician Associate, one must complete a master’s degree in Physician Associate Studies. This course can ONLY be accessed by those who already have an undergraduate science degree.  It’s a two-year intense medical programme with a huge emphasis on placements at hospitals and GP practices. To read about my experience of this at the University of Bradford click here


Similar to courses for students training to be doctors, our degree equips us to:

  • Recognise an array of diseases and their signs and symptoms
  • Diagnose, examine, and manage patients
  • Perform a variety of practical medical skills including, but not limited to, taking blood, administering injections, and speculum examinations

After student Physician Associates pass their university exams, they then sit another set of exams known as ‘Nationals’. These take place in Liverpool and are organised by the Faculty of Physician Associates. ALL student Physician Associates who have passed their university exams MUST pass their nationals in order to work as Physician Associates


What’s in a name?

Our title is Physician Associate, and upon qualification we register with the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) which is held by the faculty of Physician Associates. We can then use the title PA-R i.e. Registered Physician Associate.

New roles and titles take time to understand, but just a small disclaimer – PA does not stand for  “ Physician’s Associate”/ “Physician Assistant”/ “Physician’s Assistant” or “Personal Assistant”. We don’t belong to anyone as the erroneous name “Physician’s Associate” suggests, nor are we anyone’s assistant 😊


What does your role involve?

This varies depending on where a Physician Associate decides to work. For example, some may decide to work in secondary care, primary care, and others in specialities like mental health.

I decided to work in primary care. I am involved in diagnosing patients, examining them and providing a management plan. I am trained and qualified to run my own clinics but work under the supervision of a qualified G.P. It’s vital to appreciate that this relatively new medical profession complements the doctor’s role and does not exist to replace it. As a Physician Associate, I see patients with acute and long-term conditions, and I am also involved in teaching students training to be Doctors and Physician Associates as well as allowing them to sit in to shadow my clinics. I wrote an article for our Patient Group newsletter about the how a Physician Associate works in primary care, just click here and then select “PPG news spring 2020 interactive. pdf”

Share this post