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Clinical assistant program a success at Cape Breton hospital | CBC News


When Dr. Alana Soares and her family moved to Nova Scotia from Brazil, she wanted to bring her skills in internal medicine and gastroenterology to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

She is part of clinical assistant program, which allows physicians who have trained and worked in other jurisdictions who may not be eligible for their full licence yet to use their skills to support patient care.

While the program has been available for years in Halifax, Soares is the first participant in Cape Breton. She said she appreciates the opportunity to work in her field, and wants to see the program expand.

“So my function right now is to see inpatients, but my role will be expanded soon so I can see GI patients and we have plans even for me to see outpatients too,” she said.

Nova Scotia Health said until recently, all of the nearly 30 clinical assistant positions were based out of the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. The Cape Breton hospital is the first outside Nova Scotia’s central health zone to have a clinical assistant to help with inpatient care.

The road leading up to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, N.S.
Dr. Paul MacDonald is medical site lead for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. He believes more clinical assistants in the province could improve patient care. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Paul MacDonald, the medical site lead at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, said after spending time working with Soares, adding more clinical physicians is a must.

He adds that people with medical training from other jurisdictions should be able to provide more patient care. He said this would provide more care and shorten wait-lists.

“And I think this is a program that really can expand to help so many other jurisdictions in Nova Scotia that have been short,” said MacDonald. “It’s worked very well in Halifax,” 

MacDonald said he believes the position can help with physician burnout, and in the long run free up more beds in hospital. 

An expansion of the program to other fields would also help deal with issues in the health-care system, according to MacDonald. He sees opportunities to assist in other departments.

“We’ve been chronically short in areas such as psychiatry, we’ve had challenges there and that’s a great opportunity for clinical associates,” said MacDonald.

Nova Scotia Health could not provide any details about possible expansion of the program at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, or elsewhere in the province.


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