Physician assistants can lighten doctors’ workload but are a challenge to professional boundaries

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4664 (Published 31 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4664
  1. Matthew Limb, freelance journalist
  1. BMJ Careers
  1. limb{at}btinternet.com

Expanding the work of non-medical staff can give doctors more time for training, says Matthew Limb, but it also prompts concerns about the boundaries of different roles

The Royal College of Surgeons of England looked at perceptions of training and the potential offered by new team models.1 2 It surveyed nearly 1000 doctors in training and 22 specialty association leaders, interviewed NHS staff at eight “case study” sites in England and Wales, and analysed workplace diaries.

Complement not substitute

The report found that doctors in training can be anxious about the idea of non-medical practitioners, like physician associates, playing a bigger role in surgical teams. “To a degree it’s the fear of the unknown,” says Ian Eardley, vice president of the college. “Because these staff are relatively new, some juniors worry they might be a threat, they might take away training opportunities. For a surgical …

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