I’m Anne, a Canadian Physician Assistant.
It was during my relentless pursuit of exploring different careers in healthcare, that I stumbled upon the PA profession.
It was a non-traditional route to practice medicine that would allow me to use my intellect, and problem-solving skills to fill the gaps in healthcare and serve others.
After completing PA school, I went onto practice in Orthopaedic Surgery, where I see patients in clinic, on the ward, and first assist in surgery!
I started the blog to provide resources that I wish I had as a Pre-PA, and to highlight the amazing work of my PA colleagues in different specialties across Canada.
Now, a few years in, I am honoured that the Canadian PA blog has resulted in:
- 100+ Blog Posts
- Profiles of Practicing of 30+ Canadian PAs & 25+ PA Students
- 2600+ Youtube Subscribers, with over 190,000 total views
- 3600+ in our Canadian Pre-PA Facebook Community
- Improved awareness about the PA profession in Canada!
WHERE I STARTED
I attended a Canadian PA Program
I completed PA school at McMaster’s Physician Assistant Education Program in Hamilton, Ontario, one of 3 PA programs across Canada. I was part of the Class of 2011, the second class to have ever graduated from the program!
Some Fun Facts!
Why I chose PA
I did not know I wanted to become a PA until I stumbled on the profession.
I had always been passionate about health and finding opportunities to volunteer and work towards helping others achieve wellness in their community.
I worked hard to maintain my competitive GPA while rounding out my experiences and soft skills with extra-curricular activities and work within a health care/research setting. I volunteered in the Emergency department and inpatient wards in the summers, I took on leadership position in several campus clubs, and worked as a clinical research assistant at my university’s hospital.
I was able to achieve this through persistence, goal setting, time management, overcoming procrastination, resourcefulness and relentless intentional action. My approach to finding the right career was no different.
I had explored a multitude of career options and my first choice, initially, was going to medical school – like many of my peers in undergrad.
My resume read like a competitive pre-med student. Straight A’s, stellar extracurriculars, experience in health care, and coursework that gave me the background to prepare for a career in medicine.
I created a picture of “Success” with my resume, but it became increasingly difficult to abandon the feelings of hesitation about pursuing the traditional MD route.
I didn’t feel like I fit in with the track of pre-med students. I didn’t feel passionate about becoming a doctor the way my peers did.
After much research and self-reflection, I determined that the main health care profession that aligned with my values and goals involved practicing medicine. However, I wasn’t sure if the traditional route to practicing medicine was for me.
I reached out to my guidance counselor at my university. We sat down and explored ALL the different career options: Pharmacy, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Naturopath and more…
I attended careers fairs, information sessions, spoke with different health care professionals that I’d meet. I joined Pre-Med and Pre-Health clubs and used their resources to find out as much as I could about these careers.
It was in one of our later sessions with my guidance counselor where she sat me down and said, “McMaster has started a new Physician Assistant program, and its a brand new profession in Canada.”
Going home, I sat down and googled “What is a Physician Assistant?“. I wasn’t sure what to expect given the name. However, in the words of my now PA-Colleague Sahand, this is what I discovered after doing research:
“I actually thought of the name, and said, well “Physician Assistant”? they’re probably doing clerical work.. how is this the best job in the United States? When I actually researched it, I saw in fact that the name is almost a misnomer in that you’re not doing a lot of clerical work or typical tasks that an “assistant” is doing, but you are a PHYSICIAN EXTENDER where you practice medicine, you see, diagnose, treat illness, you prescribe medications, you assist in surgeries and perform procedures yourself, and so I fell in love with it.” – Sahand Ensafi, CCPA, Emergency Medicine PA
I read articles online about how PA was a way to practice medicine, but with better work-life balance, and quality of life. There was the flexibility to switch specialties, and you were in school for only 2 years.
A sign that this was a good fit, was the excitement I felt around being part of a new profession in Canada:
… The purpose of the profession and why it was introduced, how PAs operated in the health care system really aligned with my values, passions and long-term goals.
Further research led me to PhysicianAssistantForum.com – one of the oldest and largest open forums for Physician Assistants and Pre-PAs in the United States. Back then there were little no resources available about PAs in Canada apart from the national association website and PA program websites. I ended up spending a lot of time perusing the Pre-PA General Discussion section of the forum to find students like myself looking to apply to PA program.
Back in 2009, Canada had not graduated their own PAs yet (except for in the military), and there was only a handful of PAs recruited from the US and IMGs to work in pilot projects. I did not have the network or contacts to speak with a PA or PA student.
However, through my guidance counselor I learned that one of my former undergraduate classmates had applied and gotten into the McMaster PA Education program and was already making her way through her 1st year of PA school.
I sat down for coffee on campus with the PA student, started asking her questions about PA and the PA program. I learned about her Pre-PA Experience, her journey and her decision-making process. This conversation was very eye-opening, sharing her insights, and this solidified my decision to pursue PA.
The possibility of helping to pioneer a new career in Canada was very exciting too and inspired me to pursue becoming a Physician Assistant.
My PA Journey Now
When I started as a fresh PA graduate I focused primarily on mastery of my clinical skills and knowledge of Orthopaedic Surgery. This started with working with patients in an outpatient Orthopaedic Surgery Clinic at a group practice, followed by working in fracture clinic, surgical first-assist in the Operating Room, and more recently, inpatient/ward management.
Once I got more comfortable within my clinical position and established myself as a PA in Orthopaedic Surgery, I challenged myself to take on PA students to teach and to volunteer on PA Advocacy initiatives and take on leadership roles within the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA). I also volunteer on the Board of Directors for PAs for Research, Scholarship and Education in Canada (PARSEC), doing monthly Virtual PA shadowing sessions with PAs in different specialties across Canada.
I have mentored PA students, and fellow PA colleagues through placements, excelling in PA school, and navigating the job hunt through interviews and PA contract negotiation. I have seen colleagues make pivots in their careers owing to the flexibility of the PA profession (e.g. switching from working as a PA in Internal Medicine to Emergency Medicine, or Family Medicine to Orthopaedic Surgery!), or grow their PA careers working in the same specialty. I am always impressed by the work in patient care my PA colleagues have and continue to achieve.
It was interacting with patients, health care professionals and the PA community that inspired me to continue writing and working towards educating others about the PA role and the positive impact PAs can have on the health of Canadians.
I continue to write about the PA profession, many of the blog posts inspired by current events or questions I receive through email or in our Pre-PA Facebook group.
It’s my goal to help attract and inspire individuals passionate about health care on the journey to becoming a PA.
Thanks for reading about my journey. Feel free to peruse the blog or connect if you have any questions!
Thank-you Notes from Pre-PAs!
“Thank you very much for all of your efforts to make great impact at the improvement of Canada’s PA and healthcare system in general.”
“Hi Anne, I wanted to thank you for creating a common space for Pre-PA students such as myself. A space for bringing us together, keeping us updated about the growth and challenges of the PA profession, and creating resources to make the PA application process less daunting.
It was my second attempt at applying for the U of M MPAS program and I am fortunate to say I was accepted into the program! Thank you for your help, and I hope to keep in touch as I grow into this profession.”
“Thank you Anne. I can’t express how much your passion for helping Pre-PA students and advocating for Canadian PAs has helped me in landing my acceptance to PA school. Everything I learned about PAs and how to be a successful applicant started with your website and posts on social media. You are an incredible leader within the PA community, and I’m so grateful to have had you as a mentor. Moving forward, I’m excited to stand beside you and watch our profession grow!”
“Thank you so much, Anne! Going through the process of applying for the PA program is a lengthy and difficult process, but it was extremely helpful to have your tips and suggestions along the way. The pandemic didn’t stop you, you made the meetups online and kept on helping. As a newly accepted PA, I am extremely grateful for all your help!!”