Critical role in health workforce needed
First published 22 August 2012
Regional Queenslanders with healthcare backgrounds are being encouraged to consider James Cook University’s new ‘Physician Assistant’ course to help alleviate health workforce shortages in their local areas.
The School of Medicine and Dentistry at JCU Townsville launched the first class of the Bachelor of Health Science (Physician Assistant) course, in January this year.
The inaugural cohort will complete their first year in November.
After a promising start and encouraging developments on legislative and policy fronts, it has been decided the course will again be offered in 2013.
Physician Assistants (PAs) are qualified to practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor or physician specialist in what is commonly known as a delegated practice model.
PAs are educated to undertake duties previously only performed by doctors or physicians, including examinations, carrying out investigations, diagnosis and treatment.
The three-year course is specifically designed for mature, non-medical and allied health professionals.
Applicants must have a level of pre-existing health care experience (a minimum of two years’ full time or cumulative part-time) and an undergraduate health degree or equivalent educational qualifications. A previous degree is not a strict requirement.
Allan Forde, Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine and Dentistry and Clinical Coordinator of the PA course, said people from a range of health professions were represented in the first intake.
“The main source of applicants was paramedics and nurses, but we also had a podiatrist, army medic, medical technologist, radiographer, case worker and medical assistant,” he said.
“We are trying to target rural and regional areas for potential applicants as JCU’s aim is to educate people already living in these communities to become PAs.
“We have students from other states and would like to recruit interstate – again, in rural and regional areas - if at all possible.”
After recently completing an informational and recruiting trip to Cairns, Cape York Peninsula and Thursday Island, they were also eager to attract applicants from Indigenous communities and Aboriginal Health Workers in particular, he said.
Mr Forde said becoming a PA would advance the careers of skilled medical technicians and other allied health personnel looking for a change in direction or the ability to extend their contribution in the clinical arena.