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Physician Associate - PGDip

Course Description

Surrey’s longstanding excellent reputation and first-rate facilities combine to provide a postgraduate diploma that will prepare you for an exciting career as a physician associate.

You will be taught by Academics who are internationally recognised for their expertise in medical and who possess a wealth of experience and knowledge.


This programme of study, skills development and placement experience allows you to build upon a first degree in biosciences, life sciences or health sciences in order to function as a qualified physician associate.

The programme teaches you to assess, diagnose and manage medical problems competently, consulting with patients presenting with a variety of specified conditions on behalf of, and under supervision of, a senior experienced doctor.

By the end of the programme, you will be able to deliver holistic medical care and treatment to a standard defined by the National Examination for Physician Associates, which will enable you to work in either Primary or Secondary Care.


The programme consists of eight taught modules.

On successful completion of the programme, students will receive a Post Graduate Diploma in Physician Associate Studies, but will also need to sit a National Examination comprising a written paper and OSCE examination, set by the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians, in order to be able to practise in the NHS.

On passing the National Examinations, the graduate can be registered on the National Register (currently a Voluntary Register but awaiting accreditation and appointment of a Regulatory Body). The graduate can only work as a physician associate in the NHS if he/she is on this National Register. The following modules are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.
-Introduction to Case Based Life Course Medicine
-Case Based Life Course Medicine 2
-Case Based Life Course Medicine 3
-Case Based Life Course Medicine 4
-Clinical Medicine – Mother and Child, and Psychiatry
-Clinical Medicine – Emergency Care and Surgery
-Clinical Medicine – Medicine and General Practice (1)
-Clinical Medicine – General Practice (2) and Elective


Physician associates support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. As a physician associate, you might work in a GP surgery or be based in a hospital, but wherever you work, you'll have direct contact with patients.

You’ll be trained to perform a number of day-to- day tasks including:
-Taking medical histories
-Performing examinations
-Diagnosing illnesses
-Analysing test results
-Developing management plans


Following successful graduation from this Diploma course, you will need to sit the National Assessment for Physician Associates, set by the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians, London.

Passing the National Assessment will allow you to be put onto the National Register for Physician Associates, so that you can practise clinically in the UK.


The overarching educational aim of the programme is to train graduates with a first degree in Biosciences, Life Sciences or Health Sciences, or suitable approved programme, to Post Graduate Diploma level, to function as a qualified physician associate (on passing the National Examination).

Physician associates will be able to:
-Deliver holistic medical care and treatment under defined levels of supervision, in acute and primary care settings in the National Health Service.
-Work effectively with patients and multi-disciplinary healthcare teams from diverse backgrounds.
-Use a patient-centred approach, and be expert communicators, ensuring patient safety at all times
-Promote health and wellbeing on an individual and population basis
-Engage in reflective practice, work within the limits of their competence and engage actively in lifelong learning and professional development

This training includes the necessary knowledge, skills and professional attitudes needed to work to the medical model, demonstrating safe medical practice, medical competence, compassion, reflective and critical thinking in diagnostic reasoning and clinical management.

Graduates will be able to assess, diagnose and manage medical problems competently, consulting with patients presenting with a variety of specified conditions on behalf of, and under supervision of a senior experienced doctor.

They will be able to understand and demonstrate the principles of safe and effective prescribing.

Graduates will be trained to a standard defined by the National Examination for Physician Associates that will enable them to work as physician associates in the National Health Service, with appropriate accreditation and regulation once these have been decided and implemented.


Knowledge and understanding
-Demonstrate knowledge of core competencies to medical conditions met during the two year course (in Primary and Secondary Care placements and coursework), as listed in the Competence and Curriculum Framework for the Physician Assistant, 2012.
-Ability to summarise the structure and function of the normal human body throughout the life course
-Ability to describe the pathological basis of core medical conditions throughout the life course
-Ability to describe the wider determinants of health on the individual and society
-Demonstrate application of knowledge and skills in a patient-centred manner for the management of core medical conditions throughout the life course, applying knowledge effectively through clinical reasoning and professional judgement in situations of complexity and uncertainty and in the context of the individual patient’s needs and wishes
-Demonstrate ability to request and interpret common diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for a specified range of common clinical conditions, having demonstrated a comprehensive and critical awareness of the research evidence, national and local guidelines
-Demonstrate ability to act safely and promptly in a number of specified acute medical emergencies, taking measures to avoid clinical deterioration of the patient and making a comprehensive and appropriate referral
-Analyse and interpret evidence to the range of medical presentations detailed in the List of Patient Presentations and the Case Matrix
-Demonstrate competence in performing the full core set of clinical procedural skills (taught in both years)
-Demonstrate professional insight, knowledge of self, and reflective practice in the approach to patients and to clinical medicine
-Demonstrate knowledge of national guidelines and relevant protocols in clinical medicine, and of the structure and function of healthcare in the UK
-Demonstrate a common core set of skills, knowledge and values that promote equality, respect diversity, help promote more effective and integrated services and acknowledge the rights of children, young people and their families, and vulnerable groups
-Describe the ethical and legal responsibilities of healthcare professionals and demonstrate their application to daily clinical practice

Intellectual / cognitive skills
-Interpreting evidence/ determining the requirement for additional evidence – demonstrate ability to interpret findings from a consultation, select interpret and act upon appropriate investigations
-Clinical reasoning and judgement in diagnosis and management – demonstrate ability to formulate a reasonable differential diagnosis, based on data presented and in order of likely diagnoses
-Show ability to recognise when more information is needed, and have a reasonable idea where to find it
-Show ability to seek help if the clinical situation is beyond student/ clinician’s level of competence
-Therapeutics and prescribing – using the British National Formulary as needed, demonstrate understanding of prescribing in clinical setting, under medical supervision. Write accurate and legible prescriptions, or demonstrate accurate use of a computer to generate prescriptions for review and signature by a supervising clinician
-Understand issues that can affect patient compliance with medication and demonstrate strategies to negotiate and improve compliance
-Common core skills and knowledge when working with children, young people and families – demonstrate effective communication and recognise when to take appropriate action in safeguarding
-Awareness of guiding principles and current developments in the NHS
-Public Health – demonstrate how to apply the principles of promoting health and preventing disease, and how to assess community needs in relation to services provided

Professional practical skills
-The patient relationship – demonstrate ability to develop and maintain clinician/ patient relationships, communicating effectively and appropriately with patients and carers
-Explain the boundaries to the PA-patient professional relationship and what they signify
-Perform a holistic assessment, identifying and prioritising problems, and facilitate patient/carer involvement in management, planning and control of health and illness
-Demonstrate ability to provide useful and appropriate health education
-History taking and consultation skills – demonstrate ability to take an appropriate, focussed, and patient-centred history, including the triple diagnosis (physical, psychological and social), and demonstrate how to elicit patients’ ideas, concerns and expectations
-Examination – demonstrate ability to perform an appropriate focussed clinical examination, including a mental state examination if indicated
-Clinical planning and procedures – demonstrate ability to formulate and implement appropriate management plans in collaboration with the patient, the supervising doctor and the multi-professional team
-Demonstrate ability to perform the list of specified core procedural skills safely and competently
-Risk management – demonstrate ability to recognise potential clinical risk situations and take appropriate action. Participate in clinical governance and clinical audit. Demonstrate safe and effective monitoring and follow-up of patients in liaison with acute and primary care/ community teams
-Maintenance of good practice - critically evaluate own performance and practice, identifying learning needs
-Demonstrate how to use evidence, guidelines and audit (including significant event analysis) to benefit patient care and improve professional practice
-Moving and Handling – demonstrate appropriate manual handling techniques for a variety of situations, using any appropriate aids provided

Key / transferable skills
-Professional behaviour and probity
-Showing integrity and sensitivity
-Recognising and working within own limits of professional competence
-Maintaining effective relationships with colleagues
-Documentation and information management – maintaining timely and relevant medical records
-9Teamwork – understand and value the roles of the health and social care teams, demonstrate communication across team boundaries effectively, including handing over patient care
-Time/ resources management – understand and manage own constraints and those of the NHS
-Ethical and legal issues – demonstrate understanding of patients’ rights, competency, confidentiality, informed consent, care of vulnerable patients and how to respond to complaints
-Equality and diversity – demonstrate understanding of people’s rights in accordance with the Equality Act 2010, act with respect towards all patients, colleagues and students, and know how to take action if patients are being abused


We often give our students the opportunity to acquire international experience during their degrees by taking advantage of our exchange agreements with overseas universities.

In addition to the hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience, time spent abroad adds a distinctive element to your CV.

Visit the Physician Associate - PGDip page on the University of Surrey website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Sarah Bolger

“Although the demands on my time and energy were challenging, I received unbeatable support from the team at Surrey.”

Sarah, a Practice Development Midwife with 15 years’ experience as a qualified nurse and 11 years’ experience as a qualified midwife, explains how a Masters from the University of Surrey has boosted her career prospects.

“I wanted a course that would enable me to consolidate my previous experience and give me the qualification I needed for career progression. I chose the University of Surrey because it offers higher education as part of a contract with local Trusts. I was also looking to study at a university that could rival others at a national and even an international level.

The most challenging aspect of the course was juggling my academic work, working for the Trust and family life. The impact of studying for a Masters on family life can never be underestimated, so time management is key. For me, this often meant studying in the evening, which after a long day at work was gruelling.

Although the demands on my time and energy were challenging, I received unbeatable support from the team at Surrey. The emphasis wasn’t on taking away my challenges, but providing me with guidance so I could find a path that enabled me to achieve my full potential.

Now I have completed the course, the sense of achievement I have is immeasurable. At Surrey, you’re encouraged to think outside the box and consider new ideas.

Based on the results of my Masters, I have been awarded a full-time funded PhD studentship at Surrey. It’s thanks to the experience I had during my Masters that I had the confidence to even apply.”


Discounts for Surrey graduates - No. of awards TBC

If you are a self-funded UK, EU or international student who has studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Surrey campus in Guildford, you could be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught postgraduate Masters programme fees. This scheme is for applicable to Postgraduate Taught entry students only and is reviewed annually.Students who graduated in 2013 are eligible, as well as alumni from previous years, on receipt of evidence of the award from Surrey and where we can identify that you actually studied in Guildford. Students from SII-DUFE are eligible for this scheme.Associated Institution students are not eligible. Not available to modular self-pacing students.

Value of Scholarship(s)

10% tuition fee discount


Self-funded UK, EU or international student who has studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Surrey campus in Guildford

Application Procedure

If you have any enquiries regarding this matter please contact the Student Fees and Funding Office on [email protected]

Entry Requirements

We are seeking to recruit high-calibre, academically able and motivated students who hold a minimum 2.1 honours degree from a university, in subjects related to biosciences, life sciences or health. Alternatively, accredited health professionals with suitable clinical experience (typically five years) may be considered and should contact Professor Kamila Hawthorne for an initial discussion. Applicants must hold a GCSE minimum grade C in Maths and English.

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Recipient: University of Surrey

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