"Exploring the Preparedness for Practice and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Requirements of Physician Associates: A Mixed Methods Approach"


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis



The number of institutions offering a postgraduate qualification in Physician Associate (PA) Studies is increasing in the United Kingdom (UK), particularly in the Northwest of England. This is to ensure that PAs can work as healthcare professionals, tackling workforce demands in the NHS. This PhD project addresses the lack of knowledge regarding the preparedness for practice and CPD requirement of PAs.


1)To understand how the training and early employment experience of PAs contribute to their preparedness for practice using the Competence Framework (Department of Health (DOH) 2012), a document which outlines the skills and behaviours which PAs are expected to exhibit upon qualifying, as a guide.

2)To understand how the educational and development needs of PAs can inform curriculum design during formal university training, as well as post-qualification CPD requirements.


A mixed methods approach was undertaken to ascertain the competence and preparedness of PAs, in addition to their CPD requirements. Electronic questionnaires (n=40) were completed by PAs and interviews (n=10) were conducted with PAs and clinical supervisors (n=3) using a virtual platform of their choosing. A fully virtual approach to collecting data was due to the safety precautions required in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Descriptive statistics were generated from the quantitative data. NVivo software was used to analyse the qualitative data thematically.


Generally, most PAs (n=34, 85%) felt at least quite well prepared to work as a PA by their pre-qualification PA programme. In total, 100% of PAs (n=40) felt at least quite well prepared to perform a physical cardiovascular, respiratory or abdominal examination. The percentage of PAs reported feeling not well prepared to perform a physical paediatric examination was 25.6% (n=11). Furthermore, 42.5% of PAs (n=17) felt well supported to meet their CPD needs and 45% of PAs (n=18) felt that their overall CPD needs as a PA were being met. The findings from the PA interviews included many PAs being unable to articulate their learning or development needs due to lack of speciality knowledge and many PAs calling for protected time for training and CPD.


The findings suggest that current PA curricula prepare and equip students with the skills and behaviour required for clinical practice. However, PAs need structured CPD to aid their development and this includes protected CPD time, greater access to conferences and more teaching opportunities, tailored to their specialty. There also needs to be increased teaching on CPD and paediatrics as part of the PA curriculum.

Original Contribution to Knowledge

Research which has been carried out on PAs in the UK has been limited but has found that PAs are able to work successfully in healthcare teams. However, the preparedness for practice and CPD requirements of PAs is not exactly known. This PhD project has addressed this gap, thus making an original contribution to knowledge.
Date of Award27 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorSIMON WATMOUGH (Director of Studies), Jayne Garner (Supervisor) & EMMA JAYNE PEARSON (Supervisor)


  • Physician Associate
  • Preparedness for Practice
  • CPD
  • COVID-19
  • Regulation

Cite this