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Health Workforce Australia report gives the nod to physician assistants
*** Report represents overwhelming support for PAs Ben Stock writes: In 2011, Health Workforce Australia commissioned a report into the Physician Assistant and their potential role in the Australian health workforce. This report was completed in November 2011 and earlier this year was tabled to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council for consideration and it has now just been formally released. This comprehensive report conducted an extensive literature review of supporting documentation regarding Physician Assistants from overseas evidence and considered the impact of the two Australian Physician Assistant trials, which were conducted in Queensland and in South Australia. In addition the report also considered submissions from various key stakeholders such as personnel from the rule and remote health sector, Physician Assistant graduates and students from the Australian PA programs conducted by University of Queensland and other professional bodies representing nurses and doctors. The findings of this report are overwhelmingly supportive of the introduction of the Physician Assistant into the Australian health workforce. A number of concerns were raised by some respondents about introducing a new health professional, such as the competition of training placements for junior doctors and medical students, and potential competition with the existing nurse practitioner role. It is interesting to note that the report could not find any evidence that supported either of these two arguments. One thing the report alludes to is that the acceptance of the Physician Assistant role is based on the level of understanding. The greater the respondent understood the role of the Physician Assistant that more likely it was to be accepted. What does this report mean for Australian Physician Assistants? Firstly, it will stimulate a great deal of discussion, both positive and negative. The report clearly outlines positive impact that the physician assistant will have on the Australian health workforce and the overwhelming support of the rural and remote health sector. To date, most opposition to the Physician Assistant role has been based on a poor understanding of this model of healthcare, which this report confirms. The contents of the report provide a clear and detailed description of the role of Physician Assistant, which should lead to a greater understanding of the position. So, what is the next step?