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Movement of PAs into Canadian health care still going strong

The ongoing integration of physician assistants (PAs) into the Canadian health care system continues, with roughly 300 PAs now employed across the country.

Given the continuing growth and evolution within the relatively new profession, the CMA and Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) have updated and revised their joint Physician Assistant Toolkit. The resource was first produced in 2010 to provide information for physicians who were considering employing PAs in their practices or on health care teams. The updates include information on legislation and regulation, education and certification, liability issues and funding and employment opportunities.

PAs have been used in the Canadian Forces for roughly 50 years, although they have not adopted the PA designation until recently. They have also been employed in Manitoba for about 12 years and, more recently, in Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta. The major sign of their expansion is the relatively recent introduction of PA degree programs at the University of Manitoba and McMaster University and a combined program offered by a consortium of PA education consisting of the University of Toronto, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Michener Institute.

The CMA is a strong supporter of the new profession, arguing that PAs can help reduce wait times while providing safe and cost-effective care under a physician's guidance.

CMA President Anna Reid describes PAs as "advocates" of collaborative care. "The rise of the profession has come at a critical time," she says. "Canada continues to face health human resource challenges, and patients continue to encounter difficulties in accessing care. PAs will help Canada meet these challenges."

CAPA President Tim Ralph agrees. "By including PAs in your practice, you have a unique opportunity to improve access to quality patient care in a physician-led collaborative team," he says.

The revised toolkit is now available online.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.