Background The Physician Associate (PA) role is well established in primary and secondary care, however, a PA has never previously been employed by a UK hospice. To qualify PAs complete a bachelor’s degree in health/life sciences, followed by the PA diploma or Masters (Royal College of Physicians: Faculty of Physician Associates; Royal College of Physicians: Faculty of Physician Associates. Code of conduct for Physician Associates). With the arrival of Shape of Training and future palliative medicine trainees dual accrediting in internal medicine, hospices need to find innovative ways of managing this significant change in workforce provision.
Aim We aim to share our experience, acting as a benchmark employer of the PA within UK hospice teams.
Method During the first six months of employment a service evaluation was conducted. The PA and consultant team worked closely together to understand the role and how it works alongside the traditional inpatient unit medical team, looking at the strengths and limitations.
Results The PA acts as a complementary role alongside the doctors on the team. As a permanent member of the medical team who understands the unique systems in place, the PA allows continuity of patient care. Daily tasks include: ward rounds, clerking new inpatient admissions, co-ordinating the weekly MDT meeting, discharge paperwork, family meetings, following up test results and practical skills such as blood taking and catheterisation. Non-clinical work includes education, audit and policy updates. Limitations to consider: PAs are not currently able to prescribe, are unable to complete after death paperwork and do not partake in the medical on call rota, therefore need to work alongside doctor colleagues to ensure the smooth running of the inpatient unit.
Conclusion The PA role can bring much needed continuity, ensuring smooth transitions between medical rotations and acting as a highly skilled addition to the hospice multidisciplinary team, ensuring efficiency and excellence in patient care. The PA role has potential within the hospice community team. This will be explored further in the coming year.
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