Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

Physician Assistants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Marie Meckel PA-C, MPH , Naveed Ahmed MD, MPAS, PA-C, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

The Physician Assistant profession started in Saudi Arabia in 2010, the impetus came from the fact that the ministry of defense saw a need to increase the numbers of trained medical professionals that would be able to work in military settings.  The government is now interested in further developing this cadre of health professionals to address the growing need for primary care providers in the Kingdom.

Full project description: 

Saudi Arabia is the largest of the Arab states, with an estimated 20 million citizens and 9 million registered expatriates. In 2005 universal health insurance was introduced which serves both the citizens and expatriates. Saudi Arabia is facing a massive population increase with a subsequent increase in non-communicable diseases. These require more health care visits to manage as well as a needed shift in focus to preventive medicine. Currently Saudi Arabia lacks a national medical workforce and subsequently relies heavily on expatriates to fill this gap. Developing the physician assistant is as an excellent way to address the growing needs of Saudi Arabia.

Physician Assistants (PA) in Saudi Arabia are trained at the Prince Sultan Military College of Health Sciences Al Dhahran. The training is 28 months in duration with didactic and clinical training. The general administration of medical services of the armed forces focuses on field medicine and gives priority to provide high standard of health care in primary health centers, clinics, medical services units and medical field units. The physician assistants develop their clinical skills in a military hospital. The program follows the medical model used for physician and physician assistant education in the US, and has oversight by US trained physician assistant faculty member. Prior to serving for five years in the military, the PA graduate completes a 6-month internship in emergency medicine in the Ministry of Defense’s medical service division.

Currently the Ministry of Health Specialist (licensing body) and the Ministry of Higher Education (accrediting) do not recognize PA‘s formally. Under the Saudi Commission of Health Specialists Classification, every health care provider including the technicians, nurses, physicians are registered and get a unique number in order to work in their respective fields. There is a call moving forward for this, so as to help structure the health care system to maximize access to care. The Ministry of Defense is planning to pause the PA program to get approval from the ministry of higher education. Every profession has to be listed in the Saudi commission of Health Specialist. This Saudi Arabian PA profession needs support the medical community. There are other stakeholders who are also trying to get this approval done.

 

Approved by: Major General Saleh H. Shayea, College Director, Prince Sultan Military College of Health Sciences

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