Clinical supervision of Physician Associates in primary care
The physician associate (PA) role is gaining momentum as a healthcare professional who supports medical workload in primary care, yet there is a lack of formal frameworks or research around how best to clinically supervise this new role. This seems especially pertinent amid the recent funding initiatives that encourage employment of PAs to aid the increasing demands in primary care, especially with the added stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a focus on trying to make primary care more sustainable.
A qualitative online questionnaire was sent to 20 primary care PAs within 16 practices in Sheffield and the surrounding areas. The answers were collated alongside the authors’ own experience to produce recommendations to supplement existing documentation from the Faculty of Physician Associates.
The feedback suggested the respondents were generally happy with the level of support given from their supervisors; which informs the recommendations below. Two of the 14 respondents identified issues around insufficient induction, absence of structured support and inadequate communication between the GP supervisor and the PA. The full research has been peer-reviewed and published here: https://www.rcpjournals.org/content/futurehosp/8/1/57
The recommendations are limited by small sample size, but aims to initiate a starting point in clinical literature for primary care supervisors. These recommendations include, but are not limited to: a discussion at the onset of PA employment of mutual needs and a specified supervisory schedule, alongside named clinicians who generally address clinical and pastoral components periodically. This accompanies an induction into the practice and general clinical support that is initially more intensive but otherwise remains available when the PA feels it is required.
Further work has since been conducted on the transition of PAs into remote consultations within primary care, which has been accepted for publication by Future Healthcare Journal and I would also be happy to integrate into the above discussion.