Physicians Associates at BSMS

  Dr Nikki Dearnley, Clinical Education Fellow, BSMS

In September 2016 BSMS opened its doors to its first intake of Physicians Associate students. As part of my role as a Clinical Education Fellow I am heavily involved in teaching on this course. When I explain to friends and colleagues what my job involves I often get a lot of questions about the role of a Physician Associate, so I am going to use this blog post as an opportunity both to answer some commonly asked questions and perhaps sell to you the benefits of teaching on this course!

What is a Physicians Associate?

Physician Associates are collaborative healthcare professionals with a generalist medical education. They work alongside doctors to provide medical care as a part of the multidisciplinary team. Physician Associates are dependent practitioners working with a dedicated supervisor, but are able to work independently with appropriate support. Physician Associates work within a defined scope of practice and limits of competence. They can:

  • Take medical histories from patients

    The first cohort of Physicians Associate students at BSMS, with course leader Dr Wesley Scott-Smith (front, third from right)
  • Carry out physical examinations
  • See patients with undifferentiated diagnoses
  • See patients with long-term chronic conditions
  • Formulate differential diagnoses and management plans
  • Perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures
  • Develop and deliver appropriate treatment and management plans
  • Request and interpret diagnostic studies

Currently Physicians Associates are not able to

  • Prescribe
  • Request ionising radiation

How are we training our Physicians Associates at BSMS?

BSMS offers a 2 year postgraduate clinical diploma in Physician Associate Studies. This is an intensive course. The first year is mainly classroom based including clinical skills, anatomy and case based learning sessions. They have clinical attachments in General Practice 1 day per week. The second year is mainly hospital based, with clinical rotations in local trusts.  For more information see the BSMS website

What level do I need to pitch my teaching to Physicians Associate Students?

All of our Physicians Associate Students have a 2:1 or higher in biomedical sciences / healthcare degree. However their clinical experience is variable, and this needs to be taken into consideration when planning a session for these students. We generally aim to pitch our year 1 teaching at the level of a year 2/3 medical student. They are a motivated group who do prepare and read in advance for sessions. Do prepare for questions!

Why should I get involved in teaching Physicians Associates?

Teaching on the Physicians Associate course is very rewarding. You can be at the forefront of educating a rapidly growing profession, and the small cohort allows you to deliver personalised small group teaching to a motivated group of students.

If you are interested in offering teaching on the Physicians Associate course please contact Wesley Scott-Smith (course lead) on

Where can I find out more about Physicians Associates?

For more information on Physicians Associates the following links may be helpful:

Faculty of Physicians Associates


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