Dalhousie University, province developing physician assistant training program
The Nova Scotia government is working with Dalhousie University to establish a training program for physician assistants.
Gregory Ells, a senior executive director with the province's Advanced Education Department, delivered the news to MLAs Tuesday during an appearance before the legislature's standing committee on human resources.
Ells told reporters that things remain in the early stages but the hope is to have the program ready "for as soon as possible."
"We're hoping that it could be available in the 2023-24 academic year," he said.
Training programs already in Ontario, Manitoba
A physician assistant is an advanced practice clinician educated in the medical school model who practises medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Among other things, physician assistants can handle straightforward cases, order and interpret tests, assist in surgery and prescribe some medications.
The Dalhousie program could have as many as 24 seats in what would be a two-year, masters-level program, said Ells. There are already training programs in Ontario and Manitoba.
The role has been used for years as part of the health-care systems in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and the Canadian military, but it's been a more difficult sell in Nova Scotia.
The former Liberal government launched a three-year pilot program in 2019 with three physician assistants working in the orthopedics division in Halifax.
More recently, the Tory government said it would be hiring three physician assistants each for the emergency departments at the Dartmouth General Hospital and South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater.
Expanding use of the role
Ells said the government is looking at all potential solutions to ongoing pressures on the health-care system related to staffing and patient access.
"I think this is seen as another health-care professional that we need to bring into the workforce in Nova Scotia in bigger numbers."
The move to expand the use of physician assistants in Nova Scotia follows previous announcements by the government to expand and incorporate the use of other roles in the health-care system.
A pilot program was previously announced to use general practitioners with additional training in anesthesia in the operating rooms at Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
There are also plans for nursing-related upgrade programs that would allow continuing-care assistants to train to become licensed practical nurses, and licensed practical nurses to upgrade their skills to become registered nurses.
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