Judith G Proudfoot
Mark F Harris
A new medical assistant training program has been developed as
an innovative solution to the workforce pressures facing general
practice in Australia.
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.
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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