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Dr Amit Sharma is part of an innovative, progressive GP practice that offers placements to Physician Associate (PA) students and has gone on to employ four graduate PAs. He outlines the benefits PAs bring to his Practice and his advice for other GPs considering working with Physician Associates.

Amit's GP surgery, Brookside Group Practice, offered its first PA placement to University of Reading student Tanya Ali back in 2016.

"We did it for experimental reasons - we were interested in the Physician Associate role but weren't sure where PAs would fit in the Practice. It's been really rewarding to train others - that's a real positive. I feel part of a developing profession, and am helping develop general practice."

So how did Tanya fit into the Practice, and what was her role?

 "Physician Associate students work with us a set number of days. They have an induction of IT and processes, and then a clinical induction with the teams including the GPs. Because of limited time, we get them involved with patients as soon as we can."

Amit's Practice operates in multidisciplinary teams, consisting of GPs, paramedics and nurses, and Physician Associates have now become an integral part of those teams. PAs see routine patients as well as those attending the urgent care clinic, and the Practice discusses PAs' own learning needs, such as working with nebulisers or in the asthma clinic.

Amit has found that the PAs have significantly benefitted his Practice, especially due to the attributes and attitude they bring to their work.

"Tanya carried out placements in our Practice for the two years that she was a student. It's only a small amount of time really but it was very valuable. Tanya was willing to learn, and very adaptable to the Practice and its needs. She had a great attitude to work, was humble, and keen to engage with the team. These personal attributes are vital. Tanya developed herself and helped the team develop."

Tanya has been employed in the Practice since graduating in 2018.

Amit points out that there are challenges when taking on PAs, such as the organisation needed to arrange placements and the slightly increased workload when supporting new starters.

"There is an increase of workload when taking on a Physician Associate student so a medium to longer term view is needed. You need to consider the balance - PAs are very helpful but do need support. PAs are mainly working in hospitals at the moment and I've heard from colleagues in A&E that they're really making an impact."

Amit explains why he advocates PA student placements:

 "We're developing a more multidisciplinary workplace, and it is worthwhile. If the students do well and have the right attitude, they're more likely to stay after graduating. Placement students are easy to train, which makes employment easier."

 And why hire PAs after graduating?

"Graduates are flexible and can work with the Practice on areas of needs. There's a real opportunity for us to work differently in the future in terms of general practice and the wider healthcare industry."

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