PAs in South Africa

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Reading “One PA's experiences in the Netherlands, South Africa, and Australia” by Ando Kerlen, MPA, and Ruth Ballweg, MPA, PA, DFAAPA (August 2017) reminded me how the evolution and influence of the physician assistant (PA) movement has grown not only in the United States and Canada but also around the globe. Recognizing the value of PAs on the 50th anniversary of the first PA graduates calls for an update of the healthcare profession elsewhere. Here in South Africa, where the term for PA is clinical associate, the profession is celebrating its seventh year. We would like to inform readers about this development and what the future may portend. Additional information will be forthcoming in a manuscript.
Clinical associate training started in 2008 at Walter Sisulu University in the eastern Cape. The 3-year bachelor of clinical medical practice (BCMP) degree has produced just under 800 graduates. The degree also is offered by two other programs: the University of Pretoria and the University of Witwatersrand (known as Wits), both in Gauteng Province. Clinical associates work under the supervision of a physician, providing primary care as well as advanced medical procedures with further training. As of 2016, 181 clinical associates were graduated from Walter Sisulu University, 374 from the University of Pretoria, and 232 from Wits.
The developing academic pathway includes a new, 1-year postgraduate degree in emergency medicine offered by Wits. In addition to the clinical associate programs operational in 2017, several universities have expressed interest in starting programs. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth just received approval to start a clinical associate program along with a medical school. The university is drafting curriculum and a training platform and receiving mentoring and advice for the first intake in 2018 or likely 2019.
The University of Venda in Limpopo Province is considering a clinical associate program in its School of Health Sciences, with a first intake in 2019 or 2020. The University of Limpopo School of Health Sciences in Polokwane received approval for an undergraduate medical curriculum in 2014, and is considering an undergraduate clinical associate degree or may follow Wits' lead with a postgraduate BCMP honors course. As the PA profession matures in the United States, many young and innovative training programs are advancing the profession around the world.
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