Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the job prospects for physician associates in Ireland?

Judging from the experience of the UK's NHS, it is predicted that demand for qualified PAs will quickly grow as clinicians and the public appreciate the unique and vital contributions PAs make to patient care. Qualified PAs work in a wide variety of healthcare settings including all types of hospital and surgical care, GP practices and community health services.

2. If I want to practice medicine, why not train as a doctor?

Working as a qualified physician associates can offer great variety and job satisfaction. PAs practice medicine as part of a consultant-led multidisciplinary healthcare team. PAs provide focused care to patients by supporting doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients in a wide range of healthcare settings. The role of the PA includes taking medical histories, performing examinations, making diagnoses and analysing test results. As PAs mature in their role, their level of autonomy in medical decision-making will increase.

Read here what qualified PA Daniel Meehan says about his role and why he chose to become a PA.

3. Do physician associates take jobs away from doctors or nurses?

Physician Associates are intended to complement the healthcare team. They do not replace doctors or nurses.

4. Can PAs prescribe?

As regulation is not yet in place, PAs the UK do not currently have prescribing rights. However, pharmacology is a key component of the PA curriculum as well as in the delivery of medical care.

5. How is the PA course taught?

The PA programme is an intensive, demanding and fast-paced two-year course with a balance of theory and practice. Teaching is delivered by experienced international PA educators and RCSI Medical School faculty.

The teaching/learning approach includes:

  • Problem-based case studies
  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Simulation
  • Online learning
  • Projects

Quality clinical placements will be completed in community medicine, general hospital medicine, emergency medicine, mental health, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology and paediatrics. There will be a range of assessments including OSCEs, MCQs, Short Answer questions, essays and presentations. Year 2 will include a dissertation.

Click here for more information. To visit the PA programme at RCSI and meet with tutors and students, contact pastudies@rcsi.ie or call +353 1 402 2282.

6. What qualifications do I need to apply?

If you are a graduate of the health sciences or your career is already in healthcare, the PA programme is an exciting new opportunity. Applications are invited from Level 8 Health Science or Science related degree candidates with a minimum classification of 2.2 award or equivalent qualification. Candidates who present a Level 7 degree plus relevant work experience may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

7. What if my degree isn't science or health-related?

We recommend that potential applicants email pastudies@rcsi.ie to assess their suitability. Please send as much information as possible including module titles and content.

8. If I have experience in healthcare can I apply without an honours degree?

If you do not meet the standard entry requirements for the PA programme we recommend that you contact pastudies@rcsi.ie for advice and guidance.

9. Is deferred entry an option?

As we do not hold applications from one year to the next, you will need to reapply if you wish to defer your application.

10. Will I be able to work while studying?

As this is an intense programme of study at postgraduate level, it is highly recommended that you do not work. In order to succeed you will need to commit fully to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be a competent PA. The course is time intensive, with an equal amount of time spent outside of the classroom for every hour in the classroom.

11. Will this qualification allow me to practice as a PA in the USA once I have qualified?

As the USA has strict rules for all PAs educated outside of the country, it is not possible to practice as a PA with a qualification awarded outside the USA.