Electives: You know what we did?
Monday 29th April 2019
Some of the university programmes of study give their PA students the opportunity to undertake an elective placement as part of their second year of studies. Elective placements can be a rewarding experience, able to offer a student the chance to undertake an overseas placement and encounter medicine in ways not experienced in the UK, the option to undertake a research project or an audit and even have a taster in a speciality that they are interested in exploring as a possible career pathway to be explored.
Several of your forum committee members took advantage of this opportunity when it was available to them and below, in their own words, are some of their experiences for you to read.
When I was a second year student, I decided that I wanted to return to the ward where I now work for my elective (Emergency Assessment Unit). I had enjoyed my first placement there and I wanted to return and take part in an audit. When I was considering my future career as a PA, I noticed that a lot of PA job adverts listed 'QI/ Audit experience' as 'desirable'. Therefore the elective was a perfect chance to get this experience.
Before I started my elective, my supervisor and I met to discuss potential audit and QI projects. We found one that would fit well in the 2 week time frame. My audit analysed out of area ambulance attendances- looking at the reasons people came to Salford A+E instead of their local hospital. It involved a lot of trawling through ambulance sheets but gave me experience in data collection, analysis and once I had completed my audit, I presented my findings to the Consultant team in my department.
I'd highly recommend taking part in any form of research/ audit/ QI during your time as a student. This doesn't have to be part of an elective (I'm aware not all North West Universities offer an elective placement). During longer placements, I'd advise seeking out any audit opportunities to broaden your experience and increase employability at the end of the PA course.
In the future, my aim is to incorporate my clinical practice with research. I have been fortunate that some of the opportunities I have had whilst on the PA course have helped to promote the PA role. In 2018 I was asked by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust if I would be interested in conducting a Research Project. The specific aim of which is to educate current and prospective students, employers, educators and other healthcare professionals on the daily working life of a PA.
The study is entitled 'A Day in the Life of a Physician Associate' and looks directly at the tasks and activities a PA carries out on a daily basis; using the Competence and Curriculum framework as a guideline. I shadowed PAs over a number of different years qualified across both medicine and surgery. The findings of my project highlight just some of the ways in which PAs are currently being utilised and identifies how PAs are complementing both the medical and surgical workforce. Although the results are able to compare the roles between medicine and surgery and show the progression of the role, what stood out above all else was that the PAs were heavily patient focused.
I hope that this project can help to develop the PA profession further. I intend to use it to educate supervisors and Trusts about the role of PAs, so that students 1) get the most out of their clinical practice, by bringing in standardisation and a framework for students completing their placements 2) Trusts get the maximum benefit out of having them there and 3) ensure the students are more prepared for clinical practice once qualified.
I spent my 2 week elective at Mildmay, a hospital specialising in HIV care in Kampala, Uganda. I organised the trip with a group of PA students through the university's volunteer page (UoM). After completing the application and sorting out payments (not cheap!) we booked flights and accommodation was provided on site at the hospital. The elective itself involved shadowing ward rounds in paeds, sitting in on clinics/counselling and visiting rural communities. It was a cultural eye-opener and a unique insight into medicine abroad. Going abroad takes a long time to organise and is stressful at times, but I would definitely recommend it if you have the chance. We combined our trip with activities such as safari and even popped over the border to Kenya for our 2 week summer break.