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DMU's new course will train a new type of healthcare professional

Students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have the chance to train for a rapidly growing healthcare role in the UK - with opportunities to engage with experienced US practitioners.

Physician Associates (PAs) have been an integral part of the healthcare model in America for more than 50 years, supporting doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients.

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The aim in the UK is to create a new workforce that will improve patients' access to care, with DMU launching its Physician Associate Studies MSc in response to NHS demand.

Dr Louise Dunford, joint academic lead for setting up the course, said: "Local healthcare providers contacted DMU to say they were interested in recruiting PAs.

"The idea is to develop a new sustainable workforce to help reduce waiting times for patients and provide continuity of care.

"We have a big partnership with the NHS and placements arranged at big hospitals, community hospitals and GP surgeries."

Launching in September, the two-year course combines academic learning with hands-on skills. Students will have the opportunity to engage with American PAs, recruited to help the NHS realise the benefits that increased numbers of PAs could bring.

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Dina Bateman, who joined the children's assessment unit at the Leicester Royal Infirmary last June, loves being a PA!

She said: "When I first started my journey into medicine I thought that the only two options available were to be a nurse or a doctor, so I chose to be a doctor. During the course of my studies, however, I became aware of the PA role. I instantly knew that this was the path I wanted to take.

"I was a bit older than the average student and the shorter course was very appealing. Furthermore, I really liked the idea that I would be a generalist, and therefore be able to practice in a variety of fields throughout my career.

"Practising as a PA for the past seven years has only confirmed for me that I made the right choice."

Dina, who is also a PA Ambassador for Health Education England East Midlands, added: "I also feel that since PAs can be trained more rapidly, we can meet some of the growing workforce shortages."

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Physician Associates Kristy Logan, Diane O'Meara, Dina Bateman and Michael Dowd during a break from work at the Leicester Royal Infirmary

Her colleague, Diane O'Meara, has worked in the Royal Infirmary's digestive diseases/gastroenterology department since July 2016.  She said: "I am able to see patients on my own and discuss further plans with consultants as needed, I also see patients with the team during ward rounds.

"I interpret diagnostic testing, and request further testing as needed. I counsel patients on their diseases, current work up and next steps."

Diane pursued a career as a PA as she wanted to extend her interest in science and medicine to patient care.

"I like being part of the team and the collaborative approach to patient care," she said.

"PAs can provide increased access to healthcare services, as well as increased continuity of care in a system where doctors need to rotate through jobs as part of their educational process."

For more information about DMU's course, click here.

Posted on Thursday 8th June 2017

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