Infections that last

August 2009

Professional

Medical assistants

A primary care workforce solution?

Volume 38, No.8, August 2009 Pages 623-626

Medical assistantsAbbe Anderson MBA, is CEO, GPpartners, Lutwyche, Queensland.

Judith G Proudfoot PhD, MAPS, is Associate Professor, School of Psychiatry and Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales

Mark F Harris MBBS, FRACGP, MD, Professor and Director, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, University of New South Wales and the Centre for Research Excellence in Obesity Management and Prevention in Primary Health Care, Sydney, New South Wales

Background

A new medical assistant training program has been developed as an innovative solution to the workforce pressures facing general practice in Australia.

Objective

This article describes the development and implementation of the Australian medical assistant role and training program, and discusses key lessons learned in the 4 years after the first medical assistants were trained.

Discussion

Medical assistants are trained to carry out delegated administrative and clinical assisting duties specific to the ambulatory care environment. Lessons learned thus far from the introduction of this national qualification include the need to consult widely within the health care profession in the development of new roles, the imperative to bring together health and education sector expertise, the importance of flexible course delivery and the need for clearer role and boundaries definitions. The experience from the program implementation described in this article may help inform further primary care workforce development.

Australia's health workforce shortage1,2 is giving rise to a range of innovative solutions. While increased responsibilities3 have been proposed for existing health professionals (eg. practice nurses),4 these are constrained by the existing workforce availability.5 New roles, such as physician assistants6 and nurse practitioners7 have received mixed reactions8,9 from some sectors, but are the subject of increasing interest.10

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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