The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants has a wonderful flow chart you can use to help navigate becoming a PA in Canada. I also strongly recommend reviewing each of the PA program websites for the most accurate, up to date information on their admissions process. This is simply a rough guideline.
Step 1: Take the pre-requisite courses & fulfill admission criteria
Check the admission requirements for the program and ensure you take the appropriate courses (if applicable), have the health care experience hours (not all PA programs require hands on patient experience to apply), achieve the minimum GPA to get in:
Step 2: Apply to the program by the deadline, get into PA school
Submit all the appropriate paperwork (GPA transcripts, supplementary applications, proof of English speaking competency level if applicable). For specific requirements & deadlines please see websites above. If successful for the first stage of admissions, you’ll get invited for the interview process. Successful candidates are contacted shortly after with invitations to join the PA program.
Step 3: Complete a PA program at an accredited Canadian PA school
- PAs are educated on the same medical model that physicians undergo during their training within a physician directed and patient-centered healthcare team.
- First year [similar to the first two years of medical school] usually involves intensive coursework in medical foundations across all body systems/areas of medicine (anatomy & physiology, cardiology, respirology, hematology, GI, oncology, infectious disease, etc.) , learning clinical skills (history taking, performing physical exams, interpreting lab results, reading xrays & imaging), communications skills (interviewing patients, how to counsel), medical ethics.
- Second year [similar to a 3rd/4th year medical student] – compromises of clinical rotations across different areas and specialties of medicine: core rotations in placements like family medicine, emergency medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, internal medicine – although this varies from school to school. Evaluations for each rotation (lasting 4-12 weeks) completed by your clinical preceptor (a PA or physician) and you may have to complete a written test
Step 4: Become certified
Once you have completed PA school, you qualify to write the PA Entry to Practice Examination issued by PACCC – the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada. You must be a CAPA member in order to write the exam. The exam takes place once a year and can be written in several cities. For the past few years the exam has taken place in late October. If you pass the exam, you receive the “CCPA” designation, which is the “Canadian Certified Physician Assistant” title.
Step 5: Apply for a PA job, get the job, practice
Apply for positions that are listed on the CAPA website (members only). You can also perform a google search for “Physician Assistants jobs” in your area of choice. Hospital and clinic job boards will also post listings as well. PAs are trained as generalists, so you can apply to job postings across different areas of medicine once you are done PA school.
Step 6: Maintain certification
In order to maintain your “CCPA” designation, you have to be a member of CAPA and complete a number of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours. The PACCC website has more details on maintaining your certification.
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