Case study

Physician associate — Sarah Russell

Sarah enjoys educating patients and the flexibility that her role provides. Discover how she secured her job and what a typical day looks like

How did you become a physician associate (PA)?

I undertook an eight-week, voluntary rotation in a variety of acute care settings including the clinical decisions unit (where I spent most of my training), A&E, critical care and neurosciences.

While on rotation I applied for a job in neurosurgery and was later appointed. This was my first real experience of surgery.

I worked for four sub-specialty teams in a regional unit and multi-trauma centre. The job was fast paced and fairly unpredictable and I quickly developed an interest that stretched beyond post-op care. I wanted to know more about patient outcomes, prognosis and quality of life.

That led me into my role in rehabilitation, although it wasn't quite as simple as that; the whole process took around two years, with discussion, relocation and delays in funding.

What's a typical day like?

My role centres on teamwork. I am ward based and participate in weekly ward rounds, multidisciplinary team meetings and therapy sessions.

I review new referrals and clerk admissions and also attend to other clinical, practical and administrative tasks, including audit and data analysis.

On quieter days I observe and assist in outpatient neurology/neurodegenerative/transitional clinics for young disabled school leavers or deliver teaching sessions for nurses and nursing students.

What are the best parts of being a PA?

I enjoy the continuity of care, the holistic nature of rehabilitation and exploring the complexities of the brain.

I also enjoy educating patients and learning from them. I appreciate the support of a positive and enthusiastic team and watching my patients make progress. I'm constantly learning and my role is flexible and supported.

What are the most challenging parts?

The most challenging parts are the psychological impact and implications of brain injury, the extent of physical disability, trauma, loss, grief and challenging behaviours and psychosocial circumstances.

How has your role developed?

Since patient stay can range between two weeks to two years, I have the opportunity to educate individuals (and their families/carers) about injuries and co-morbidities and provide on-going physical and psychological support.

In addition, I have just completed yoga and mindfulness training for mental and physical ill-health and I hope to integrate these skills into my clinical practice.

What was the emphasis of your postgraduate degree?

The PGDip physician assistant/associate studies course is a generalist clinical medical degree, which focuses on acute adult medicine and offers specialist subjects in GP, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and psychiatry.

It's highly adaptable and lends itself to a diverse array of medical and surgical specialties.

What advice would you give to others?

Your experience is what you make of it. Follow your interests and create your own post.

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