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I have always had a fascination with medicine from an early age but medical school wasn’t an option for me back in the late 80s. I eventually trained as a Podiatrist, a role which I enjoyed for 10 years, but all the while felt I wanted more. I was watching an episode of ‘GPs behind closed doors’ on TV last summer when I saw two Physician Associate students sitting in on a consultation, one of them was a podiatrist. This piqued my interest and I decided to find out more about the role. I joined a few Facebook groups and lurked for a while. Someone posted up about a new Masters in Physician Associate Studies course starting at Bournemouth University in January 2019, so I applied and the rest is history.

I certainly think that to do well you need to have a huge interest in medicine as there is a lot to learn in a short space of time so being really keen is going to help you. Also I would strongly recommend getting some hands-on experience with patients, either through volunteering or as a Health Care Support Worker. Laying hands on people can be quite daunting at first. If you’re not familiar with drugs I would suggest getting hold of a good book. I really like ‘The top 100 drugs’ by Andrew Hitchings, but there are many to choose from. Also practise, practise and practise some more. Whatever you learn, make sure you go over it to reinforce it. The Physician Associate course moves at a fast pace, so as soon as you can, start practising those physical examinations (OSCEs) on family, friends, dogs, cats, teddy bears (although if you find a pulse in your beloved bear I’d start worrying!)

I am a fairly mature student (48) and was very concerned that my age would be an issue, however BU were quick to reassure me that it would not be a drawback at all, and in fact, I bring maturity and confidence into my workplace which has helped a great deal. I feel well supported by the university and Poole Hospital, where I am on placement. I have several people I can contact to talk through any concerns or worries. You may find you have to explain the role of Physician Associate to everyone, and as such, it may be useful to sign up as a student member of the Faculty of Physician Associates (fparcp.co.uk) as they have lots of information about the role.

With regulation around the corner, I can see the role of Physician Associate becoming an integral part of the medical team moving forward and I am very excited to be a part of the process in working towards improving continuity of care in the NHS, which I believe is at the heart of the role of Physician Associate.

By Clair Sparkes
MSc Physician Associate Studies