Becoming a Physicians Associate: by Mark Laffan, Physicians Associate at RBH

We interviewed Mark Laffan, Physician Associate at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, here’s what he had to say…

person in scrubs, with a stethoscope and a tablet

What does a Physician Associate do?

Physician Associates are medically trained to recognise, diagnose, and manage the most common and life-threatening conditions. PAs achieve this by working within the medical team, taking histories, and performing clinical examinations. These core skills enable us to be versatile healthcare professionals who, on graduating, can work in general practice, in hospitals, and in the community. As a relatively new role, PAs can meet the challenges posed by the current healthcare dynamic, often filling the gaps between doctors and nurses.

What qualifications and experience do you need?

For the MSc/PGDip PA course, you will need a life-science or similar BSc undergraduate degree with relevant work experience. The work experience is extremely valuable and important. Applicants need healthcare experience, preferably patient-facing/person-centered contact. This could be as a healthcare assistant or a laboratory role, although any role that requires communication and empathy is relevant.

What do courses involve and how do you apply?

It’s a 2-year course, full-time 9-5 Monday to Friday. The first 6 months will involve classroom teaching and practical workshops, followed by another 6 months of mixed teaching and hospital placements. GP placement can commence very early on(!) from the second month onwards.

You can apply to the course online via the University of Reading website. You will need to complete the application form and a cover letter outlining your experience.

What are the career prospects?

There are plenty of options for careers as a PA. There are PA schools throughout the UK and the jobs market reflects this. The University of Reading has very close links with the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Many Consultants lecture PAs at the university and the majority of placements take place at the RBH. This puts UoR students in a favourable position when it comes to their hiring. Many PAs have been hired at the RBH because of how well they worked there as a student. Out of interest, I have also seen some work from home GP jobs.

What are the good things about this profession?

I love the versatility and flexibility of our profession. As a new role, we can usually tailor our job role to fit our interests and the needs of my department. We bring continuity of care by working regular working hours, Monday-Friday 9-5 which is also great for maintaining a work/life balance. I find the flexibility comforting as we can progress horizontally by moving to another discipline of medicine easily without being penalised.