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New Master’s Program to Train Physician Assistants

Today, August 3, the Province of Nova Scotia announced a new physician assistant Master's program at Dalhousie University. The program is expected to begin in January 2024.

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.

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