FREDERICTON (CNB) – Physician assistants will soon begin working in the emergency department of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

"Today is National Physician Assistant Day and what better way to observe this important day than to announce that physician assistants are being introduced into our health care system," said Health Minister Madeleine Dubé. "This team-based approach will have physicians working closely with physician assistants and this will contribute greatly to health-care delivery by improving access to services, decreasing wait times in the emergency department and optimizing patient care."

Physician assistants are university trained and highly skilled health care professionals who support physicians in providing a wide range of medical care.

"We are pleased to welcome physician assistants Kathleen Harvey and Lori Jackson to our team and are excited to be part of the implementation of this new health care discipline in New Brunswick," said Donald J. Peters, president and chief executive officer of Horizon Health Network. "As a new health discipline, the physician assistants are currently being integrated into the multidisciplinary health care team. It is anticipated that when they are fully integrated early in the new year, patient care will be enhanced through improvements in wait times and reduction of patients leaving the emergency department without being seen."

Harvey and Jackson joined the hospital's emergency department over the summer months. Harvey received her training through the Canadian Forces and has worked in primary care settings throughout Canada, Bosnia and Dubai. Jackson received her training at the University of New England in Portland, Maine, and has worked in the areas of primary care and general surgery in Maine.  

"We are fortunate to have such high qualified and experienced physician assistants join our team," said Dr. Graeme Young, chief of Emergency Medicine at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital. "We are very positive about their arrival as they see up to 20 patients a shift and provide the full spectrum of emergency medical care."

Physician assistants' functions include:

●    conducting physical exams;
●    diagnosing and treating illness;
●    ordering and interpreting tests;
●    developing treatment plans;
●    providing preventative health care; and
●    assisting in surgery.

National Physician Assistant Day is celebrated across Canada to acknowledge the physician assistants practising in various clinical settings and the contributions they make to health care.