What's the difference between being a doctor and a physician's associate?

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roseprincessx
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I feel like the two closely relate to each other, but I don't know the differences between both options
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ecolier
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(Original post by roseprincessx)
I feel like the two closely relate to each other, but I don't know the differences between both options
Not much really, if your question was "what's the difference between a junior doctor and a physician associate".

Specialist (consultant) doctors are responsible for a patient's care, I suppose that's the main difference. And obviously the salary*.

Also, PAs currently cannot prescribe but there are plans for that to happen.

Plenty of hospitals put PAs in junior doctors' rotas, even all the way to registrars' rotas.

Finally, in case you haven't looked:
https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/exp...cian-associate
https://www.fparcp.co.uk/about-fpa/W...ian-associates
https://nationalcareers.service.gov....cian-associate
https://www.nhsemployers.org/your-wo...ian-associates

*PAs start off earning more than an FY1 (even after on-calls), but a consultant will easily earn double a starting PA's wage.
Last edited by ecolier; 2 years ago
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roseprincessx
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(Original post by ecolier)
Not much really, if your question was "what's the difference between a junior doctor and a physician associate".

Specialist (consultant) doctors are responsible for a patient's care, I suppose that's the main difference. And obviously the salary*.

Also, PAs currently cannot prescribe but there are plans for that to happen.

Plenty of hospitals put PAs in junior doctors' rotas, even all the way to registrars' rotas.

Finally, in case you haven't looked:
https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/exp...cian-associate
https://www.fparcp.co.uk/about-fpa/W...ian-associates
https://nationalcareers.service.gov....cian-associate
https://www.nhsemployers.org/your-wo...ian-associates

*PAs start off earning more than an FY1 (even after on-calls), but a consultant will easily earn double a starting PA's wage.
thank you
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CTLeafez
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It's a shame most the PA courses are either PGDips or 2 year MScs so not fully funded by the SFE Postgraduate Loan.

If I wasn't already 2 months away from finishing my MSc and there was better funding options overall for Masters level study, I'd considering going down the PA route
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Answers0192
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They are both medical professionals, both can work in primary care (GPs) and secondary care (hospitals).

Quick note, they are “physician” associates not “physician’s” associate. This is because they are clinicians and don’t belong to a physician. They are also not a doctor’s assistant so the apostrophe isn’t used, I thought I’d quickly clarify that as not everybody knows. Anyway:


In terms of differences:

Doctors specialise
Physician associates don’t specialise

Doctors cannot move between medical specialties without re-training as they are ‘specialists’
Physician associates can move to any medical specialty as they are ‘generalists’

Doctors can work independently
Physician associates work with and refer to medical supervisors (often consultants) but with appropriate training can work independently

Doctors typically complete:
5 years undergraduate degree
2 foundation years called FY1 and FY2.

Physician associates typically complete
3-4 year undergraduate degree
2 masters/pgdip years called S1 and S2.

Doctors carry on training whilst working in their field of medicine in order to specialise.
PAs can go straight into a job and can undertake further training whilst on the job e.g surgical training

Both Doctors and PAs study medicine to the medical model. They both diagnose and treat patients, formulate management plans, take physical examinations etc. PAs cannot sign off prescriptions or order ionising radiation (this is changing soon however)

Physician associate courses require you to apply to a medical school (if the university has one). Regardless of this, PAs go to university to study medicine. The subject they study is medicine and many people downplay this, for some unknown reason. PAs study postgraduate level medicine. They are not doctors. Doctors also study medicine and they undergo a significant amount of academic years of study. They also retain a lot of information to get to their respected positions.

Doctors are regulated by the GMC (General medical council) and Physician associates are also undergoing the same regulating body, GMC.
GMC has plans to give PAs more privileges such as prescribing rights.

Graduate PAs will initially earn more than junior doctors. However, as the years progress and they gain more experience, doctors will earn more than PAs.

Doctors are trained to be specialists in their field medicine whereas PAs are generalists in their field of medicine. Both are an asset to the medical workforce. Hope this helps
Last edited by Answers0192; 1 year ago
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Answers0192
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I have worked with PAs and have seen in previous threads people questioning whether they are ‘smart enough’ and yet those same people have done no research into the role, so I applaud you for asking.

Many people question the competence of PAs, but I think it is important to understand that they already have another degree (e.g biomedical sciences). It is definitely not rare for biomedical science students to transfer to medicine AFTER their first year. This is because the content (of the first/second years) of both courses, are similar.

PAs already have the scientific and biological knowledge required. And believe it or not, a medicine degree ALSO covers a lot of the scientific content which IS taught in a biomedical sciences degree.

There is a reason why PAs need a degree in a health/science degree before applying. This is because medical schools are looking for someone that already has the knowledge (which would be taught in the primary year of medicine) and then scientific knowledge of their own. The course is a masters not an undergraduate. So they do not need to be taught it all over again. Especially since many of them will have obtained a first class honours. They then study medicine for another 2 years. They are more than qualified and intellectually competent individuals.

A typical biomedical science student has completed a 4 year degree including a placement year, gets a 1st class honours or a 2.1 and then completes a physician associate masters studying medicine for another 2 years. This is 6 years in total to become a general clinician. They then apply for a job and train in that job. How is this any ‘less competent’ than a medical student that completes a 5 year undergraduate degree and then completes 2 foundation years, finds a trainee post and trains on the job to become specialised.

I think the main issue is that the ‘training after’ is not clear for the physician associate profession. E.g after qualifying it takes 3 years to become a GP doctor, these individuals would also train on the job. Physician associates apply for a job after qualifying and also train whilst on the job.

Neither medical students or physician associate students after graduating are qualified to be doing the role of, lets say, a consultant, so they train. The difference is a medical student can ‘become’ that consultant where as a physician associate would not become a ‘consultant Dr’. At the moment, after several years they can be ‘Senior PAs’ but not a consultant doctor because they are not doctors.

It is just very clear the number of years it takes for a doctor to specialise as a GP and “not clear” for physician associates because they don’t specialise, they are generalists so they will move between specialties.

Doctors will work very hard for their position and it is unfair for both professions to be pitted against each other as 1 shouldn’t be brought down to bring the other up. A doctor’s number of years to train is very clear and every doctor and medical student has undeniably put in a lot of effort to get to where they are and have been around for a very very long time! The PA role has only been around for 2 decades in the UK, however just because the role is new (and people don’t take the time to research it) doesn’t mean the number of years in education are meaningless compared to a doctors, I think you’ll find that both study for a long time. And both will have to sit recertification exams every 5-6 years to make sure they are still medically competent!

In the USA the PA profession is just as well established as a doctors profession, but it has been around for a long time there, so the job role does work. Doctors in general are usually very very nice and accommodating to PAs and vice versa, it’s usually people that have no clue about the daily life of both professions that pit the two against each other. They say that PAs won’t have ‘enough knowledge’ but yet completely disregarded the years of education prior to applying for the masters, the health related experience required, the hours of volunteering, the numerous university exams, the bachelor degrees that were achieved etc

In terms of applications, both PAs and doctors have the same styled interview, MMIs and they both are desired to have medical related experience before applying.

People that don’t research it act like a masters... a masters..... Is the “easy way” in and that’s ridiculous. Typically hundreds of people, finish one degree, and then will make themselves the best candidate possible to apply to a university which reject will hundreds of applications and only hold 100 interviews to then allow the only 20 people into their medical school.

That is not the ‘easy way’ into medicine. There is no easy way into medicine, you need to put the work in. A doctors work should not be disregarded by people who think there’s a quick entry route into getting a medical degree. That is not what a PA masters is about.

I respect you for asking because many people don’t and then assume things that aren’t true. All people need is a bit of research!
Last edited by Answers0192; 1 year ago
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