James Cook University Medical School has developed a Physician Assistant program, giving a helping hand to doctors.
Beginning this January 2012, the James Cook University Medical School will offer the Bachelor of Health Science (Physician Assistant).
Physician assistants (PAs) are qualified to practise medicine under the supervision of a doctor or physician specialist.
The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine recently endorsed a policy statement giving strong support to the potential of PAs, saying they “extend the reach of doctors in rural and remote communities and stabilize health care services”.
The three-year James Cook University Medical School Bachelor Degree course is designed for mature, medical or non-medical professionals with previous healthcare experience and a certain level of tertiary level education.
Allan Forde, Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the James Cook University Medical School, said PAs could undertake duties previously only performed by doctors or physicians, including examination, diagnosis, and carrying out investigations, as well as treatment and prescribing.
“However, all physician assistants must be associated with a supervising doctor or physician,” he said. “Physician Assistants are trained in a medical model to practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor or physician. PA students do not need to be nurses, but some are.”
The PA profession first emerged in the United States, with more than 80,000 PAs practising today.
It’s a model now spreading throughout the world, including Canada.
The Physician Assistant position is a growing career trend in Canada, with McMaster University, the University of Toronto, the University of Manitoba and the Canadian Forces offering a Physician Assistant program. It is CMA accredited in Ontario and Manitoba.
In fact, Canada’s National Physician Assistant Day was just celebrated on Nov. 15!
“Australia shares key features with Canada in particular, in regards to healthcare governance, overburdened public health sectors, substantial rural geography and significant Indigenous populations,” said Mr. Forde. “The PA prototype could help rural, remote and Indigenous health care in particular, and that’s what we are focused on at JCU.”
Fostering a Team-Based Health Care Approach
Nanette Laufik, a US-trained physician assistant and James Cook University Medical School academic staff member in Cairns, was already working clinically with the Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre in Mareeba.
Professor Richard Murray, Dean and Head of James Cook University Medical School, said rural and remote medicine had a strong tradition of team-based health care.
“This includes flexible delegation of clinical tasks by rural doctors to nurses, Aboriginal health workers, allied health practitioners, paramedics, lay health care assistants and others,” he said. “This is a practical adaptation to workforce shortage and geography and has helped to ensure that the evolving abilities of all members of a health care team can be fully applied.”
Learn more about the James Cook University Medical School PA Program!
Find out why Canadians like to study at James Cook University.