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Forging a new identity: a qualitative study exploring the experiences of UK-based physician associate students.


ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE:To explore student physician associates' (PAs) experiences of clinical training to ascertain the process of their occupational identity formation. SETTING:The role of the PA is relatively new within the UK. There has been a rapid expansion in training places driven by National Health Service (NHS) workforce shortages, with the Department of Health recently announcing plans for the General Medical Council to statutorily regulate PAs. Given such recent changes and the relative newness of their role, PAs are currently establishing their occupational identity. Within adjacent fields, robust identity development improves well-being and career success. Thus, there are implications for recruitment, retention and workplace performance. This qualitative study analyses the views of student PAs to ascertain the process of PA occupational identity formation through the use of one-to-one semistructured interviews. A constructivist grounded theory approach to data analysis was taken. Research was informed by communities of practice and socialisation theory. PARTICIPANTS:A theoretical sample of 19?PA students from two UK medical schools offering postgraduate PA studies courses. RESULTS:A conceptual model detailing student PA identity formation is proposed. Factors facilitating identity formation include clinical exposure and continuity. Barriers to identity formation include ignorance and negativity regarding the PA role. Difficulties navigating identity formation and lacking support resulted in identity dissonance. CONCLUSIONS:Although similarities exist between PA and medical student identity formation, unique challenges exist for student PAs. These include navigating a new role and poor access to PA role models. Given this, PA students are turning to medicine for their identity. Educators must provide support for student PA identity development in line with this work's recommendations. Such support is likely to improve the job satisfaction and retention of PAs within the UK NHS.

SUBMITTER: Brown MEL 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7044953 | BioStudies | 2020-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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