Experience of the Irish physician associate role: PA and supervising consultant perspectives

Lea R. Hix, Susan M. Fernandes, Pauline Joyce


Background: The physician associate/assistant (PA) role was introduced into the Irish healthcare system in 2015 when four PAs from North America were recruited to work in Ireland as part of a two-year pilot program. In parallel, the Royal College Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) began its own PA program in January of 2016 and has graduated 25 PAs. To date, there is little published on the few Irish-trained PAs. This study seeks to share initial experiences with the PA profession in Ireland.

Methods: This descriptive phenomenological study explores the newly implemented PA role in Ireland through semi-structured, one-to-one interviews with five PAs and their supervising consultants in Dublin, Ireland. Questions centered on the PA scope of clinical practice, satisfaction with the role, acceptance by the medical team, and integration into the Irish healthcare system.

Results: Six themes were identified from the interviews: continuity of patient care, flexible scope of practice, lack of role clarity, complementary to the medical team, regulation and prescribing challenges, and the emerging role of the PA.

Conclusions: The development of the PA role is in its infancy in Ireland, but this study suggests that they fill an important role by providing continuity of care to both patients and the medical team. Currently, there are significant challenges imposed by a lack of regulation of the PA profession and the inability to prescribe. However, PAs in Ireland appear to enjoy their work, are valued by their team members, and have great potential to expand throughout Irish healthcare.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijh.v7n1p18


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International Journal of Healthcare  ISSN 2377-7338(Print)  ISSN 2377-7346(Online)

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