Medicine from Down Under: Physician Assistants in Australia


  • Ando Kerlen


Australia, Physician Assistants


The need for physician assistants in Australia has been identified for decades, mainly to alleviate a maldistribution of medical staff to the detriment of rural areas.1,2 Since the turn of the century various organisations, including state and federally sanctioned institutions have called for PA implementation,3-5 but there has also been the strong opposition to the role however, particularly from the nursing and medical domains.6-9 PA pilots were conducted in Queensland and South Australia in 2009 and 2010 respectively, both concluding with positive outcomes.3,10 Despite precarious political positioning at the time, the University of Queensland decided to start a PA Master’s degree in 2009,1 but unfortunately closed its doors after 2 cohorts and graduating around 40 PAs.11 James Cook University in Northern Queensland also started a course, in 2012, which was a 3 year Bachelor’s degree but with a health care training and experience entry requirements. This program has graduated around 25 PAs to date but is currently considering  a new and innovative advanced clinician model to replace the PA program. There are an estimated 20 PAs working in formal physician assistant roles. Furthermore, there are already clear indications that the COVID-19 crisis is leading to call for the formation of more PA positions because of the limits placed on international medical graduates.

Author Biography

Ando Kerlen

Ando Kerlen is a Physician Assistant graduate from HAN University of Applied Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy, University of Applied Sciences Leiden, The Netherlands Master Physician Assistant.  Ando has worked in primary care in The Hague, in emergency medicine in rural South African and Johannesburg, as well as lecturing at the Clinical Associate program at Wits University in Johannesburg. He is currently the course coordinator of the only PA program in Australia at the James Cook University in Townsville, Northern Queensland.




How to Cite

Kerlen, A. (2021). Medicine from Down Under: Physician Assistants in Australia. Social Innovations Journal, 8. Retrieved from