PA Interview Question: Why become A Physician Associate

Advice & Insight From PA Application Specialists

​Explaining why you want to be a Physician Associate will undoubtedly form part of every interview that you are invited to. It is the single most important question you will face, and one that you must have a cohesive and persuasive answer to. You should be clear on why it is that you are interested in working as a PA rather than as a doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner, why you are interested in healthcare itself, and how your experiences and learning have reinforced or altered your view. 

A different learning experience

Studying to be a PA takes a fraction of the time that learning to be a doctor would take. Your PA course will be done in two years, consisting of intense patient exposure from the outset. Contrast this to a typical medical degree, that might consist of five years of tuition with an additional year to study an intercalated degree. If your goal is early patient exposure, with a singular focus on core medical conditions, and then the opportunity to graduate and move out into the healthcare workforce as soon as possible, then this is the role for you. You will avoid a large part of the detailed underpinning that comes as part of a Medicine degree (be it pharmacology or microbiology, genetics or global health) and trade this instead for clinical sciences. It could be considered an alternative route into medicine for those that are more practically focused. 

​At the forefront of a new role

Being a physician associate is a new role in the UK. This means that you will have the chance to be part of a new movement within healthcare. When physician associates then become a well known and well understood part of the multidisciplinary team, and of the hospital or community in general, you will then be a founding member of this part of the health service. That could have great rewards in time for the ambitious, be it lecturing, helping the profession continue its rise, or taking an advisory role within the health service.

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​A great mix

Those studying to be physician associates are all postgraduates, which means that you will be joined by other students with degrees from a wide range of institutions and domains. You can therefore expect a broader range of people than you might in a typical medical degree – more like what you might see in a graduate medical course. However, most universities do require you to have studied a life science degree – but this means you may still be joined by a range of biologists, natural scientists, biochemists or psychologists. Additionally, due to the short degree time you will also find many older graduates applying to study, making this a great choice for those that wish to learn from those with more life experience (or have more life experience themselves.)

The NHS is looking to recruit more physician associates

The demand for physician associates is high and planned to increase even higher. As many GP practices struggle to recruit GPs, we will undoubtedly see many practices move towards a far more multidisciplinary method of working, with nurse practitioners and healthcare support workers taking a greater role. As part of that, the physician associate will become increasingly important. The skills that you will learn through your studies – diagnosing and treating patients independently – would be able to take a huge amount of pressure off busy GPs, perfectly complimenting them and their practice. Indeed, physician associates can go on to become partners at GP surgeries, and often have specialist interests that see GPs referring cases on to them. Likewise, your skills could be of great use on hospital wards. You can take pressure off senior doctors, whilst having the core clinical skills to know when to refer a patient out of your care and on to a specialist.
As the department of health sets out to recruit more physician associates, and with them now being regulated by the General Medical Council (having previously been unregulated), now is a great time to begin your journey in the field. Regulation through the GMC will mean greater recognition of the profession, greater professional standards, and the chance to work alongside the GMC to shape the future of the profession in the UK.

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PA Interview Question: Why become A Physician Associate

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