Physician assistant program coming to Halifax
August 9, 2023
HALIFAX – As thousands of Nova Scotians linger on a waiting list for a doctor, the provincial government has announced a new physician assistant program at Dalhousie University, the first in Atlantic Canada. The province is giving $5.6 million to get the program up and running, followed by $1.5 million in annual funding.
Health Minister Michelle Thompson (pictured) said physician assistants free up doctors’ time, “allowing them to focus on more complex issues or things that only physicians can do.” Physician assistants work under the supervision of doctors and can perform physical exams, make diagnoses, form treatment plans and prescribe medication, among other functions.
The two-year master’s program will be open to 24 students per year, with preference given to applicants from Nova Scotia who meet the program’s eligibility criteria.
“The establishment of a master’s of physician assistant program represents a critical step towards improving access to quality healthcare services for Nova Scotians,” Dr. David Anderson, dean of Dalhousie’s faculty of medicine, said in a news release. “By training physician assistants, we can help alleviate some of the burden faced by physicians.”
As of July, over 150,000 Nova Scotians – about 15 percent of the province’s population – were on a wait-list for a family doctor. About one-third of the people waiting for a doctor had recently moved to the province.
There are currently seven physician assistants working in Nova Scotia, but the province will spend $1.7 million this year to bring 10 more physician assistants to primary care locations across the province.