The Province announced today, August 3, a new physician assistant program at Dalhousie University is expected to begin in January.
The two-year master’s program will be open to 24 students. Priority will be given to Nova Scotian applicants who meet the program’s eligibility criteria.
This will be the first physician assistant program in Atlantic Canada and one of only four in the country.
“We heard from doctors that having more physician assistants would free up time, allowing them to focus on more complex issues or things that only physicians can do,” said Michelle Thompson, Minister responsible for the Office of Healthcare Professionals Recruitment. “We know we need more healthcare providers, and physician assistants can help provide Nova Scotians faster access to care. We are proud to be able to train physician assistants right here in Nova Scotia.”
Physician assistants provide safe, competent and effective healthcare under the supervision of physicians. They can:
- perform histories and physical examinations
- order blood and radiological tests
- make diagnoses and outline treatment plans
- assist with surgeries
- perform minor surgical procedures
- consult other medical and health services
- prescribe medication
- attend to medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest
- provide counselling and preventive services
- administer vaccinations
- perform educational, research and administrative functions.
“Post-secondary institutions play an important role in helping us train the workers we need today and tomorrow,” said Brian Wong, Minister of Advanced Education. “As a province, we work in partnership to have post-secondary institutions that are ready to help us train the talent we need to fix healthcare in Nova Scotia.”
Dalhousie’s senate has approved the new program, and the university is now accepting applications. Approval is pending from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, which assesses academic programs before implementation to ensure they meet agreed-upon standards and to provide quality assurance to students, governments and the public.
The Province is investing $5.6 million to develop the program and providing $1.5 million in annual funding.
This investment will advance Action for Health, the Province’s plan to improve and transform healthcare in Nova Scotia, by investing in education and training opportunities to ensure the health needs of communities are met.
The establishment of a master’s of physician assistant program represents a critical step towards improving access to quality healthcare services for Nova Scotians. By training physician assistants, we can help alleviate some of the burden faced by physicians and provide a pathway for an important health care human resource to meet the needs of our communities.
Dr. David Anderson, Dean, Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine
We are working with key partners on many initiatives that are improving access to timely care for Nova Scotians across communities and in various healthcare settings across the province. We are excited about the integration of physician assistants in primary care, orthopedics and emergency departments as ‘test and try’ initiatives to enhance access to care for Nova Scotians. We are grateful for the partnership with Dalhousie on the implementation of the training program which will be a foundational enabler for ongoing recruitment and retention of physician assistants in the province.
Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice-President of Research, Innovation and Discovery, and Chief Nurse Executive, Nova Scotia Health
- there are seven physician assistants currently working in Nova Scotia
- the government is investing $1.7 million this year to add another 10 physician assistants in collaborative primary care sites across the province
Dalhousie University master of physician assistant program: https://medicine.dal.ca/departments/PAStudies.html
Action for Health, the government's plan for transforming the healthcare system: https://novascotia.ca/actionforhealth