Introducing the physician associate role in Ireland: Evaluation of a hospital based pilot project

Objective: Ireland has medical workforce challenges and a growing demand for services. One strategy is to include Physician Associates (PAs) in healthcare settings. A pilot study was undertaken with PAs recruited from North America and the United Kingdom to work in a large Dublin teaching hospital.

Methods: Four PAs were deployed on surgical services. Communication with the hospital staff preceded their employment. A series of interviews were undertaken at the beginning [2015] and end [2017] of the project. Data collection included surveys and interviews with staff and PAs.

Results: Despite a series of communications about the employment of PAs a lack of awareness among hospital staff prevailed. This presented a challenge for the PAs to assume their role and for staff to bring them on board. Once on board those staff who worked with the PAs found their role beneficial in terms of continuity of care and skillset. Recommendations for inclusion of PAs in any new employment should include a more robust stakeholder engagement and promulgation throughout the wider healthcare system.

Conclusion: Attitudes about the adoption of the PA have come slowly when first introduced in a country and Ireland seems no exception. At the same time communication lessons were learned about introducing a new health provider role in Irish society.