More than a thousand medical students will be given the opportunity of gaining hands-on experience working in hospitals each year in paid positions supporting doctors, under an innovative collaboration between universities and the NSW Government.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the Assistant in Medicine (AiM) initiative was initially introduced in 2020 as a temporary workforce surge measure during COVID but it was so successful, it made sense for it to continue.
“This Australian-first program has had strong support from medical students, doctors and the universities, who have told us they want these part-time roles to become a permanent part of the health system,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This is another example of the NSW Government finding new ways of working to benefit people right across our state, such as our pharmacy reforms and our Urgent Care Services, which are designed to ease pressure on GPs and emergency departments.
“Over the past three years these Assistants in Medicine have worked across the state supporting our medical professionals on the frontline, giving doctors more time to focus directly on patient care.”
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NSW Health will work with universities over the next 12-months to create a permanent program that can be integrated into curriculums and the health workforce.
Since the AiM role was introduced, over 1,100 NSW medical students have worked as Assistants in Medicine in rural, regional and metropolitan hospitals, providing medical care and support as part of multi-disciplinary teams.
Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said an evaluation of the program revealed significant benefits to the medical workforce, local health districts and the universities.
“Assistant in Medicine has been an incredibly important and successful program for our NSW health system because it gives students valuable hands-on experience while helping clinical teams focus on more patients,” Mrs Taylor said.
“We’ve seen them working across a wide range of specialties including general medicine, emergency, surgery, intensive care and psychiatry while allowing junior doctors to work to the top of their scope of practice.
“We are so excited about the prospect of giving more students the opportunity to kick start their medical careers, particularly in our regional hospitals, while also growing our relationship with NSW’s highly regarded medical schools.”
Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the program had proved a win-win as it gave final year medical students valuable hands on experience at the start of their careers while providing support to medical teams in hospitals across the state.
“These medical students have done an exceptional job supporting our frontline hospital staff in the most critical of times during COVID-19 and, in doing so, gained fantastic experience that will help propel their careers forward as the next generation of NSW doctors,” Mr Hazzard said.
“Having worked very successfully throughout the pandemic, the program will now continue to give aspiring doctors across the state this excellent opportunity as they launch their careers, while supporting the health system.”
The evaluation found there were no specialties in which Assistants in Medicine were not able to be utilised successfully. It also found that supervisors saw rapid skill progression among AiMs, and junior doctors were enabled to focus on clinical tasks and patient care, respond to critical calls and attend theatre more frequently, whilst allowing them to gain experience in a teaching/supervisory role.
The Assistants in Medicine are final year medical students from the Australian National University, University of Sydney, the University of Notre Dame, Macquarie University, Western Sydney University, University of New South Wales, University of Newcastle/University of New England and University of Wollongong.
The NSW Government announced the largest workforce boost in the nation’s history in the 2022-23 Budget with a $4.5 billion investment over four years to recruit 10,148 full-time equivalent staff to hospitals and health services across NSW, with 3,800 of those positions in rural and regional areas.
The NSW Government is investing $883 million over the next four years to attract and retain staff in rural and regional NSW by transforming the way health clinicians are incentivised to work in the bush.
In addition, under a joint initiative with Victoria, the NSW Government will deliver expanded urgent care services across NSW to relieve the demand on emergency departments.