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Physician's assistant

Physicians’ assistants can work in either primary or secondary care. Their role is to see simpler cases and collect information for their more senior medical colleagues to save doctors’ time.

Physicians' assistants can work in either primary or secondary care. Their role is to see simpler cases and collect information for their more senior medical colleagues to save doctors' time.



Job description

Physicians' assistants work in a similar manner to junior doctors. They take histories, examine patients, take blood for testing, order X-rays and other investigations, make diagnoses and refer to more senior colleagues when necessary.

They receive general medical training so tend to work in general medicine, acute medicine or general practice rather than other specialties. Physicians' assistants are not autonomous; they are directly responsible to a hospital doctor or a GP and cannot prescribe.

Potential recruits

Tend to be mature individuals with some clinical training or a bioscience degree.

Training and accreditation

The two-year full-time postgraduate diploma course is offered by four institutions and is equivalent to 60% of a standard graduate entry medical course. It covers certain invasive procedures such as administering injections and inserting cannulas.

There is no registration or regulation of physicians' assistants at the moment. About 50 physicians' assistants are currently working in the UK under the GMC delegation clause, which means they work to individual hospital doctors or GPs who satisfy themselves of the physicians' assistant's competency and take responsibility for their actions.

Salary

The job has not been banded but the suggested band is 6 – £22, 500-£32,000

Postholder's verdict

Kirsten Gipson, who trained as a physicians' assistant in the US and now works in A&E at City Hospital, Birmingham, says: ‘We spend a lot of time not just taking histories and physicals, but also educating patients about trying to be proactive in their health care.

It appeals to people who want hands-on clinical contact. People say how can you learn everything you need to know in two years? You just learn what is normal and what is not normal and where to go with that.'

Further information

St George's University of London
University of Birmingham
University of Wolverhampton
University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield

Physician's assistant

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