Augmenting the rural health workforce with physician assistants

Forde, Allan, and O'Connor, Teresa (2009) Augmenting the rural health workforce with physician assistants. In: 10th National Rural Health Conference Proceedings. From: 10th National Rural Health Conference, 17-20 May 2009, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

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Health workforce shortages are a global phenomenon and Australia is no exception. Deficiencies are particularly pronounced in general practice, dentistry, nursing and key allied health fields.1,2 Even with the Australian health workforce growing at close to double the rate of the population and despite an increase in medical schools and student numbers, the shortage continues to worsen due to factors such as reductions in work hours, increasing urbanisation and the ageing and feminisation of the workforce.2 A 2005 prediction by the Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee estimated a shortage of between 800 and 1300 general practitioner graduates alone by 2013.2 The ageing of the health workforce, increasing life expectancy and the mounting burden of chronic disease are major problems facing all developed nations. Compounding these issues in Australia are the difficulties of caring for significant rural, remote, and Indigenous populations. National and international trends suggest that the shortage and maldistribution of doctors in rural areas is very likely to worsen.2,3 As well, Australia has an increasing reliance on international medical graduates, which poses major moral questions among other dilemmas. Clearly there is a need for change in policy and service delivery models. Simply increasing the number of doctors will not necessarily improve recruitment or retention in general practice and geographically disadvantaged areas. According to Queensland Health there is considerable and ongoing difficulty in recruiting new doctors to rural and remote locations, resulting in a less than adequate rate of replacement for retiring doctors. Many health care advocates and organisations have suggested a variety of innovations to facilitate the needed transformation in the existing system. In 2007 The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) declared: We need to redesign the workforce so that services we currently see as ‘medical’ or ‘nursing’ are provided by a broader range of professionals than just doctors and nurses. We will get around the unavoidable shortage of doctors and nurses (given the excessive and escalating level of demand) by redesigning and redistributing the way doctoring and nursing are provided.4 This paper will outline how the introduction of physician assistants (PA) into Australia, may be one strategy to strengthen the health care team and address medical workforce shortages, especially in rural and remote areas.

Item ID: 5308
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
ISBN: 978-1-921219-15-3
ISSN: 1445-3363
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2009 00:50
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920201 Allied Health Therapies (excl. Mental Health Services) @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920506 Rural Health @ 50%
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