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While working towards her Biomedical Science degree at the University of Reading, Francine Olivero’s academic tutor encouraged her to apply for the then freshly launched Physician Associate studies programme. Today, Francine is a Physician Associate (PA) in Emergency Medicine at the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH), as well as Physician Associate Ambassador for Health Education England.

Launchpad to a career in the NHS

During her undergraduate studies , Francine was struck by the University’s excellent relationship with the RBH. This close connection gave her invaluable insight into professional practice, as well as opening the door to connections with industry.  

"The strong links between University and Hospital are clearly evident. They meant we had excellent clinical placements and many learning opportunities."  

Francine learned that the University of Reading is a market leader in the relatively new Physician Associate training, which anticipates the need for fully qualified PAs within the NHS. Her academic tutor was incredibly supportive of her application to the new degree programme.  

“Having studied my undergraduate degree at Reading, I found that the campus and amenities made it a fantastic learning environment, as of course do the close links with the RBH. I knew the science faculty was strong and heavily research-orientated, so my decision to apply was immediate."

From biomedical scientist to healthcare professional 

A Biomedical Sciences degree was highly advantageous in proceeding to Physician Associate training, as Francine discovered.  

“When you get to the Physician Associate stage, that undergraduate grounding helps place the disease and its underpinning process into context: it gives you a strong scientific background to understand the full picture. And then again it instils a deeper meaning to anatomy and physiology. When I'm examining patients it helps me translate my examination findings to diagnosis.”

Multidisciplinary advantages

Francine’s postgraduate professional environment was composed of students, postdoctorals, fellows and professors from a wide variety of disciplines.

Now qualified and working in the Emergency Department, Francine continues to collaborate with people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds; nurses, consultants, healthcare assistants and physiotherapists, for example.  

She explains what she loves about her role as a Physician Associate:  

“The variety of the job! On any given day I work within the different parts of the department. I take medical histories, carry out physical examinations, form differential diagnoses and management plans.

"The mix of acute and different symptoms people present means that no one day is the same. In this role I am able to learn specialist emergency skills such as nerve blocks, ultrasound and advanced life support. All whilst maintaining my generalist medical knowledge."

Why is Reading the market leader in Physician Associate training?

Reading was a forerunner in delivering the Physician Associate programme, anticipating the need for fully qualified PAs within the NHS. Our first cohort of students graduated in 2017 and we've had 100% pass rate in the National PA examinations and a 100% employment record. All of our graduates have found jobs within the NHS*, being actively headhunted even before graduation.

*These figures apply to our first two cohorts of students, who all undertook the Postgraduate Diploma Physician Associate programme.


Physician Associate

Our Physician Associate programmes at Reading have been developed in partnership with local NHS groups in response to the growing demand for this professional role in the NHS. 

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