College of Medicine and Dentistry News & Stories Insight into Physician Assistant program

Insight into Physician Assistant program

Sat, 1 Jul 2017

CMD Lecturer Judith Beneke gives us insight into the Physician Assistant program and her passion about giving back to the community.

Judith Beneke is originally from South Africa. After she finished school, Beneke joined the South Africa National Defence Force and received a bursary to study. She has a background in nursing and biomedical science and pharmaceutical sales but wanted to be more involved in the medical field and decided to complete a Bachelor of Health Science (Physician Assistant) at James Cook University (JCU).

“With a background in nursing and Biomedical Science I did not feel complete- I knew I wanted to be more involved in the medical field and wanted an Australian qualification- I am from South Africa originally.  I started doing my own research and found the PA course offered at JCU very appealing and in line with what I wanted. I applied and was accepted- never looking back” said Beneke

She said her past experience in the defence force instilled in her with the discipline and motivation to complete the degree and achieve her goal to be a Physicians Assistant (PA).

She said the new clinical skills and disease management processes she learnt opened many doors for her.

She said “I also think that being part of a smaller group of students had the advantage of not being forgotten.”

With her degree, Beneke is working privately with a local Townsville GP practice where she conducts patient health assessments and assists in minor surgical procedures performed at the practice.

“I have a strong connection with people and it is very rewarding to teach/work with the young and upcoming doctors of tomorrow.

Working as a PA in GP land tests my skills/ knowledge daily and it is awesome to be such a versatile clinician in my own right. I can actually stick my nose in anywhere, because my previous experience and what I have gained with doing the PA course, allows for a larger scope of practice.” said Judith Beneke.

In addition to her PA job, she teaches medical and PA students at JCU, as a Clinical Skills lecturer and Subject coordinator.  Beneke said her role is still evolving and the PA course has given her the chance to make a positive impact in the practice and in Australians lives.

“The fact that I make a difference in respectfully teaching the young and assessing the aged Australians to aid in their needs. I do take a lot of time with my patients to make sure I get a good picture about their health requirements and support needed in other areas and together we build a plan that is best suited for their circumstances.” She said.

Beneke said one of the most rewarding aspects of a career as a PA is the chance to give back to the local community.

“Because I am so passionate about people I feel I give back to the community by, and in collaboration with my GP team, taking care of their needs. Hopefully this sets an example for my kids and be compassionate and caring.” Said Judith Beneke.

What does Beneke wish for the future of PA?

“The PA profession is in its infancy and there is still a long way to go before it can be implemented and completely integrated into the Australian health system. There is a lot of needy areas where PA's can be applied and therefor reduce healthcare costs.

My wish for the profession is that it gains momentum in the shape of support from state and local government and that we never lose the stamina and the positive energy behind the drivers of this much needed role.”

Judith Beneke said the JCU’s Bachelor of Health and Science changed her life.

“You will never look back. It is an amazing course that sets you up for life. On the way to the winning line there will be lots of hard nights studying and for a short period of time you may even not have a social life, but it is all worth it. Once you start, give it everything you have and don't stop.  Make sure you have a good support structure and that things like finances is sorted for the period of studying. It is not a negative point, but needs to be addressed: Often students cannot cope with working fulltime and studying, so it is advised to cut down on hours and planning is essential to attend a few residential blocks throughout each year of study.” She said.