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Seven students undertaking RCSI physician associate course

Prof David Kuhns, Director of the PA Programme, RCSI, told the Medical Independent (MI) that “far more” people were interested in enrolling but “there was enough uncertainty on their part as far as future employment opportunities and return on investment that we only ended up with seven”.

However, he said those enrolled in the programme are “very keen”.

Currently, there are four PAs working in the public health system under a two-year pilot initiative developed by the RCSI at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. The pilot runs until mid-2017.

Despite the stated opposition of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) when the pilot was introduced, Prof Kuhns said his understanding is that the PAs at Beaumont are “functioning well”. 

In respect of developing the role within the public health sector, Prof Kuhns confirmed there will be an evaluation of the pilot. He said there is significant interest from the private sector, notably in cardiology and orthopaedics.

As to possible regulation, there has not yet been discussions with CORU, while an “informal” meeting has taken place with the Medical Council.

Prof Kuhns added that the seven PA students at the RCSI are “pioneers of what we are trying to do here”.

“We have six women and one man, ranging in age from their mid-20s to mid-40s. They all have their first degrees in life sciences, one of whom is a paediatric nurse; a couple of them have healthcare assistant experience, one of them is a medical lab scientist as well. It is a nice mix of folks and they make it fun.”

He said the programme will accept its next cohort in January 2017 and an open evening will be held at the RCSI on Monday, 11 April next.

Meanwhile, the IMO’s 2015 Annual Report noted that data from the pilot would be made available to the union. It reported that PAs were dependent practitioners under the supervision of a doctor. “The IMO is keen to ensure that the role is implemented as proposed and not significantly expanded until all of the elements of the role have been examined,” it stated.

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