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The Perioperative Practitioner - Insights from a Physician Associate

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20 Nov 2019

On Saturday 9th November, The Faculty of Perioperative Care hosted their 5th Annual Conference on the theme of Reshaping the Surgical Team: Integration of the Non-Medical Practitioner into Surgery.

The conference produced a range of topics and thought-provoking talks from speakers explaining their roles as Physician Associates and Advanced Clinical Practitioners, to discussions on the role universities play in ensuring they are providing essential education for all practitioners who wish to progress onto more advanced roles within the surgical team.

We caught up with one of the speakers at the event, Alexandra Brant, who is a Physician Associate in the Liver Unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and got an insight into her role and her views on how potential changes to the surgical team and its structure would impact the overall quality of patient care in the future.  

1. During your talk you mentioned how you enjoyed the process of assisting the patient through their journey. Can you give us a brief insight into your role as a Physician Associate (PA)?

I am in a very fortunate position as a Physician Associate to be that regular form of contact to the patient. For example; it could start with me taking an initial referral call and admitting that patient into hospital, to reviewing that particular individual right through to the stage where they are discharged and supporting them in their aftercare - this allows me to see them throughout their whole journey within the hospital. It’s valuable for the patient if they have one key person as their main contact, as sometimes there might be consultants that just see them for a week, so if they have a familiar face, someone who they can build up a very strong rapport with, this can result in noticeable changes including their behavioural psychology.  

2. Are there any particular changes you’d like to see made to the role of the Physician Associate in the field of Perioperative Care?

I’m very happy with my role at the moment because I enjoy being in the perioperative period before theatre, assisting patients and seeing long term patients on the ward before they go to theatre and have the procedure performed. There are obviously Physician Associates who will want to go into theatre to assist and I don’t think there should be barriers to that, however, in order to be able to do that, the next step would be to complete the First Assist course. Through achieving this course, they would prove that they have the necessary competency, however, I anticipate that won’t be possible until we have gone through GMC regulation.

3. For those who are interested in going into the theatre, how do you feel they could be better supported with that transition?

They would need to have the competency and the right training. I also think it would be important to say in their job description, that they would be able to assist in theatre. Another key factor is to ensure they have a mentor such as a consultant or a supervisor to actively encourage their development and it’s important for them to set their own personal goals and a set of competencies they wish to work towards, for example, they may want to learn how to close an abdomen. They should then have someone who can observe them to assess and approve their competencies in whatever that procedure may be.

4. If Physician Associates were to go down the route of working in the theatre and expanding on their current position, how do you feel it would impact the overall care of the patients?

Again, I think having that familiar face throughout each step of the patient’s journey is really valuable. To be able to support them from the moment of reviewing the patient, to preparing them prior to their operation and now being able to assist them throughout surgery as well as after their procedure, I feel this would make noticeable changes to their overall wellbeing. 

It is clear from having a conversation with Alexandra and listening to other speakers throughout the day, that the opportunity for staff such as Physician Associates and Advanced Clinical Practitioners to progress into the theatre is welcomed, however having the right competency-based training is imperative for their own progression and for the safety and welfare of the patient. Other factors such as consistency and having a recognisable face, providing continual support and building a strong rapport is of great value to the patient as they begin their journey within the hospital.

Visit the Faculty of Perioperative Care page to find out more about the Faculty and its upcoming events.


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