Physician Associate Studies Postgraduate Diploma

Physician Associate (formerly known as Physician Assistant) is a rapidly growing healthcare role in the UK, working alongside doctors in hospitals and in GP surgeries. Physician Associates will support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. They are trained to perform a number of roles including: taking medical histories, performing examinations, analysing test results, and diagnosing illnesses under the direct supervision of a doctor.

In this video students discuss the benefits of studying this programme at Birmingham.

To find out more:

Duration: 4:51mins


S1 Emily Archer, Current Physician Associate student
S2 Rob Newton, Current Physician Associate student
S3 Dilesh Ranganathan, Current Physician Associate student


S1       A Physician Associate is quite a new and exciting role that’s entering the NHS and we’re trained to the medical model which is the same model that all medics are trained to. More specifically we’re taught to take histories, do any physical examinations, order and interpret any tests and then play a role in the diagnosis and management of our patients.

S2       Before coming on this course I initially studied a degree in anatomy and then did my teacher training and worked for a few years as a secondary school teacher. For the last ten years I’ve worked in the NHS but in an educational role rather than a clinical role.

S1       Shortly after graduating I worked in a project management office and then more recently worked at University Hospitals Birmingham in the research and development team.

S3       I studied biomedical science, then I went on to do nursing where I worked in the emergency department as a research practitioner.

S1       I came into this course having absolutely no clinical experience or any patient contact but that was absolutely fine because they take you right back to the basics on day one and I don’t feel like I’ve been hindered by that in any way.

S2       I live locally, I’ve lived in Birmingham for ten years now, I’ve worked in some of the hospitals in Birmingham so I know the local healthcare system.

S3       It’s very multi-cultural. The university’s one of the oldest medical schools with a very good reputation for medical teaching.

S1       Birmingham offers quite a unique course in that it rotates between academic and clinical placements, so rather than having a whole year in theory and then a whole year in practice, we do sixteen weeks in university and then the following fourteen weeks are spent in an acute Trust, learning and applying basic clinical medicine.

S2       When you first go onto placement it is incredibly scary. The first ward round in particular where a consultant, you know, invites you along an then starts firing questions at you is incredibly daunting, but actually I found the experience to be really supportive and we weren’t thrown into the deep end too much, it was a very very safe environment in which to make mistakes and learn.

S1       Our main hub is definitely the medical school, which is brilliant because it’s got all the facilities we could want or need.

S3       One of the biggest things I like about Birmingham was problem based learning which I quite enjoy compared to typical lectures which you have to sit through. And also you could direct your own learning, so you could sort of look into what you enjoy or what you don’t understand and looking in more depth, which you can’t get in your typical lectures learning at university.

S2       The university also has lots of clinical skills rooms available to us, so when we’re learning how to take blood or how to insert a cannula, we can go to specially equipped rooms with plastic arms, mannequins that we can use, to practice those skills safely before we actually try and do those on real people.

S1       We have the Barnes library downstairs that has all of our textbooks that we need and has got really good space to work quietly.  And for me the best part about the campus is the university station that’s literally just across the road.

S2       In terms of career prospects, I think this course is broadening them a lot.  So physician associates work in generalist medical roles and they have to maintain their generalist status as they go on with their careers by taking revalidation examinations. That means that if we want to move from one area of medicine to another, we can do that much more easily than doctors and other medical professionals who need to retrain.

S3       My aim once I finish is to go back into an emergency department where I’ll be working as part of the medical model, to the medical team. Because I’ve already worked in an emergency department I know the day to day running of it so I can sort of hit the floor running and deliver more to the patient in terms of seeing them, diagnosing them, discharging the patients, which I wasn’t able to do before.

S2       At the moment my particular areas of interest are ear, nose and throat, and head and neck, so possibly think about moving into one of those areas in the future. But as I’ve been involved in education in the past, I’m also quite interested in educational roles within the PA profession as well. My advice for students thinking about coming on this course is to be aware how intensive the course is. It’s recommended that we spend 50 hours a week studying. I tend to spend at least 60 hours a week studying.

S3       If you can spend some time shadowing a physician associate or speaking to a physician associate so you get a better understanding of what the role involves.

S1       This course is really hard work but it’s even more rewarding, so to anybody that’s thinking about applying, I’d definitely say go for it and I don’t think you’d regret it.

End of recording