Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there Physician Associates/Assistants (PAs) in New Zealand?

Yes! In 2010, the first PA demonstration was conducted with two PAs working in a surgical ward in Auckland. They were only allowed to do pre and post op work but proved to be very useful to the surgical team. The next demonstration in 2013-2015 was conducted by Health Workforce NZ and included seven PAs working in general practice and an emergency department. This was evaluated by an independent analytics and consulting group, Synergia, and their 112 page report showed PAs were a valuable asset to the NZ health workforce. Since the demonstration, a few PAs have continued to work in NZ and continue to carry the torch, pioneering the profession, and working toward regulation. (Tiffany Hodgson, our PA liaison, was the first employed PA in New Zealand and helped set up the 2nd pilot. She also participated in the pilot as one of the seven PAs.) 

Q: What is the status of the PA profession in NZ now?

The PA profession is unregulated, meaning PAs cannot have a NZ registration / certification and therefore are limited in their scope of practice. The NZ PA society is working toward regulation and submitted an application in Feb 2017 to Health Workforce New Zealand. This application is still pending and there is no timeline as to when regulation will be granted.

Q: Who can work in NZ as a PA?

The lack of regulation makes the profession vulnerable as it gains traction in NZ. Therefore the recommendation is to follow the guidelines from the demonstrations which means PAs eligible for practice in New Zealand must come from countries where PA programs have formal accreditation, where there is a certification process to assure that all graduates, regardless of where they were trained, meet agreed upon standards, and where the individual PAs are regulated. We understand that only the U.S. and Canada meet all three of these criteria at this time. 

Q:  Are there PA training programs in NZ? 

Not yet. Australia and NZ have formed a PA Standards Council and are currently working on accreditation and certification standards for future programs in both countries.

Q: Are there many PA jobs in NZ?

The benefit of PAs is not widely known in NZ as of yet, and GP Business Solutions is working hard with practices that have shown interest in hiring PAs as well as raising the profile with practices that have never heard of PAs. We are educating them about the profession and providing resources to you, and them, so we can match quality PAs with practices seeking primary workforce solutions. 

Q: Where does NZ need PAs?

Statistics show 47% of General Practitioners in 2017 will retire by 2027, many in rural settings, so PAs with substantial family practice and urgent care experience are needed. Public hospital emergency departments are flooded with patients all over the country and this is another ideal area for PAs. Opportunities for other specialties are limited or not available at this time, but this is likely to change after regulation.

Q: What limitations do PAs have in NZ?

The biggest limitation is the lack of prescribing authority, all prescriptions must be signed by the supervising doctor. Understandably, this slows down a PAs practice, as time is taken after each patient to approach the doctor to confirm the recommended plan and gain the doctor's signature. This process speeds up over time, but initially it’s necessarily slow as the doctor and PA build up a relationship and gain trust in one another. PAs cannot sign most medical documents and according to the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, other limitations include “surgical or operative procedures below the gingival margin or the surface of the skin, mucous membranes or teeth.” You can find more details here:

Q: I’m a PA student. Can I do a clinical rotation in New Zealand?

No. Due to the infancy of the profession the infrastructure is not available to host PA students.

Q: What is the average PA salary in NZ?

An experienced PA will have a starting salary between NZD $115-$140k per year (approx 40hrs a week). Full time employees are entitled to 4 weeks holiday per year in NZ and other things such as indemnity insurance and CME credit can be negotiated. The exchange rate needs to be considered for those with large debt or mortgages.

Q: What is the cost of living in NZ?

A PA salary is enough to support 2-3 people in NZ comfortably. You can check this website out for more in depth info.