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Aust J Rural Health. 2007 Dec;15(6):346-51.

Extending rural and remote medicine with a new type of health worker: physician assistants.

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Rural Health Research Unit, School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.


The purpose of this paper was to demonstrate that the medical workforce shortage is an international phenomenon and to review one of the strategies developed in the USA in the late 1960s: the physician assistant model of health service provision. The authors consider whether this model could provide one strategy to help address the medical workforce shortage in Australia. A systematic review of the literature about medical workforce shortages, strategies used to address the medical workforce shortage, and the physician assistant role was undertaken. Literature used for the review covered the period 1967-2006. Physician assistants provide safe, high-quality and cost-effective primary care services under the direction of a doctor and respond to workforce shortages in rural and remote areas, family practice medicine and hospital settings. This model of health care provision has been adopted in several other developed countries, including England, Scotland, the Netherlands and Canada. The physician assistant concept might provide Australia with a novel strategy for addressing its medical workforce shortage, particularly in rural and remote settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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