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Int J Med Educ. 2018 Oct 31;9:286-292. doi: 10.5116/ijme.5bcf.7914.

UK physician associate primary care placements: staff and student experiences and perceptions.

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Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, UK.
Department of Medical Education, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, UK.



To provide an insight into the experiences and perceptions of physician associate students and primary care staff involved in primary care educational placements in the United Kingdom.


A qualitative study was conducted. Data were collected from focus groups and semi-structured interviews with eight first year physician associate students and six primary care staff in two general practice surgeries in East Sussex, United Kingdom. Recruitment was via purposeful sampling. Thematic Analysis was used to identify themes.


Three themes were identified: perceptions of the physician associate role, interprofessional working, and the physician associate course structure and placements. Staff demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the physician associate programme and there was a risk of unrealistic expectations. Overall, staff and students were positive about their experiences. However, students expressed anxiety over a large amount of learning in a short timeframe, the perceptions of others, and the reluctance of staff to train them in phlebotomy skills. In addition, students were unsure about their career aspirations for the future.


Participants were positive about their experiences however students expressed a number of anxieties, with a scope to improve interprofessional education. Practice staff demonstrated an overall lack of knowledge of the curriculum and physician associates in general leading to a risk of unrealistic expectations. Further studies on these themes with a larger sample size across relevant training institutions in the United Kingdom is required to explore this further.


education; general practice; physician associates; primary health care; students

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