Patients at NorthCare Pukete Road have become so accustomed to the practice’s medical centre assistants (MCAs) that they often question reception if they have not been seen by one on arrival.
MCA Janice Phillips says patients consider her and the two other MCAs as an asset to the practice.
“The patients feel like they’re not having to wait in the waiting room that long, and it means they are getting more out of their time with the GPs. It’s a win/win situation, we’re getting all the things that we need, and they have more time to spend with the GPs for what they need,” says Janice.
MCAs are non-clinical and an important part of the general practice team. They are under direction from a registered nurse to provide much-needed support.
Taking patients into consultations rooms, checking personal details are up to date, taking blood pressure and other measurements, managing medical supplies and reminding patients about important health checks are just some of the many things they do.
“We manage many critical tasks that were traditionally done by the nurses, so they can focus on more clinical work. These tasks do not require a nurse to complete, and were generally done because they were the only people to do it,” says Janice.
Janice has been an MCA since 2011 and was one of the first five people to take part in an 18-month Wintec course customised by Midlands Health Network. This course has since been condensed to eight months.
“I was a receptionist and put my hand up for it as I like helping people,” she says.
“This was a completely new role being introduced, and I saw it as a great way to be more helpful to the nurses. They used to work frantically all day, and the difference between then and now is amazing.”
NorthCare operations manager Kim Hunter says the nurses are now able to work at a higher scope of practice, and have more time to provide proactive care to their patients and consider personal development.
“There’s a whole world out there for nurses that MCAs support. Our nurses are now able to do more nurse-led clinics and advanced clinical care,” says Kim.
“Nurses now have the energy and headspace to make decisions about professional development. For a nurse to think about becoming a clinical nurse specialist in diabetes requires time away for training and dedicated time for nurse-led clinics. Your average nurse who is running around doing everything for everyone will be thinking, ‘When am I going to do that?'”
Kim says the benefits that MCAs provide significantly outweigh the investment made into training and remuneration.
“From a business perspective, it’s providing support to allow clinical staff to go into more speciality areas, which in turn generates more income. It is also a better use of resource and time. The MCAs call women to enrol in screening, which also generates income.
It’s an evolving role, with senior MCAs now doing pre-employment checks, drug screening, alcohol breath testing, spirometry, audio checks, ECGs and taking blood. They also set up for minor operations, as well as help during the procedure and with clean up.
They’re completing these tasks as a technician. You don’t need to be a nurse to do these, you just need to know the technique to do it. Our nurses have embraced the MCAs as valued team members, and the benefits to nurses and the practice team are far beyond what we first expected.”
Midlands Health Network