Final year medical students could take up jobs in hospitals to help support the battle against COVID-19.
A new role has been created for final year medical students to work in hospitals if healthcare workforces need to be quickly increased in response to the pandemic.
If needed, students could take on paid roles with health services for three to six months while being supervised by senior doctors.
The new medical assistant roles would help maintain essential non-COVID-19 care to take pressure off medical and nursing staff in the more routine care that continues in hospital wards, outpatient clinics, operating theatres, birthing suites and community settings.
Last year, Ballarat had about 80 medical students from different year levels at Deakin University, University of Melbourne and Notre Dame University studying in the city in partnership with Ballarat Health Services and St John of God Hospital.
State and territory governments have been working closely with medical schools to plan for a rapid expansion of the medical workforce if COVID-19 cases surge.
"Australia needs our final year medical students to graduate at the end of 2020 and be ready to work as qualified interns in our medical facilities," said Australia's chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy.
"In light of the challenges and changing situations that health services and medical schools across the country are facing, we cannot overstate the importance of working together to put patient care first and also support the vital need to continue the clinical training of our students."
There are about 3600 final year medical students across Australia, which would allow for a significant boost in health worker numbers if needed across the country or in impacted areas.
Victoria has just under 900 final year medical students with 150 at Deakin University, 336 at Melbourne University and 393 studying at Monash University.
In addition to working, students would also be allocated time for classes and study.
"Should senior health workers be diverted to deal with COVID19 requirements, final year medical students would be ready to assist doctors with preparing and supporting case work in areas such as maternity, general practice and other wards," said Professor Richard Murray, president of Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand.
The students could also work in roles including triage assistants, telemedicine assistants, support for Junior Medical Officers, roles in specific response units and GP clinic support.
"Medical students have always completed immersive placements in healthcare facilities. As well as making a valuable contribution to patient care as part of the wider healthcare team, this clinical training enables them to gain the experience and skills we need of our future doctors," Prof Murray said.
If required, the assistants in medicine could work for about 30 hours a week under supervision of a senior doctor. Medical students were involved in discussions around the new roles.
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