Celebrating our Physician Associates - Sam Connelly

To mark Physician Associate Week from 3 to 7 October we're showcasing a few of our brilliant PAs in their own words! Next up is Sam Connelly, PA at our Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and PA ambassador for mental health for South Yorkshire.

I have worked as a Physician Associate on a Psychiatric Intensive Care unit since February 2020. Recently I have started a role as a PA Ambassador for mental health for the region.

This role has been focused on increasing the numbers of PAs coming into mental health and showcasing PAs to mental health trusts. At present there are only around 80 (2%) PAs working in mental health in the UK. The Royal Collage of Psychiatry is hoping to increase this to around 10% of PAs in the coming years.

This is why:

PAs are in a great position to support the existing medical teams working within mental health. Their generalist training puts them in an especially great position to improve the physical health provision for those with severe mental illness (SMI).

People with SMI have on average 10–15-year shorter life expectancy than someone who does not have an SMI, three times higher incidence of death from preventable causes such as heart, liver and respiratory disease and twice the national average cancer rates.

PAs have the potential to be a great resource in helping tackle these health inequalities in the coming years and improve the quality of life of people with SMI.

I became a PA to be part of a new profession which has huge potential to make a positive impact in healthcare.

Working in mental health is a tough but really satisfying area to work in. I would argue it is the most person-focused area of medicine you can work in, getting to know patients and understanding what's important to them and working out how to help them is a huge part of mental health. Each patient is very different, even if they have the same diagnosis, and being able to treat as an individual rather than as a pathology is a hugely satisfying aspect of mental health.

As a PA I have been able to help mental health patients improve their physical health care and help to address the health inequalities faced by those with severe mental illness. I have become a well integrated part of the team and I feel highly valued by both my colleagues and patients.