Working as a Primary Care, Addictions & Mental Health

Anthony is a University of Toronto/PA Consortium Graduate, and Canadian Certified Physician Assistant working in Primary Care, Addictions & Mental Health.

Working as a PA in Primary Care, Addictions & Mental Health

Anthony describes his life working as a PA in Primary Care, Addictions and Mental Health in Ottawa, ON.

  • 0:15 Working with Vulnerable Populations
  • 1:48 Working in Primary Care, Addictions & Mental Health as a PA
  • 5:03 A Typical Day in the Life of a PA in Primary Care, Addictions & Mental Health
  • 6:40 Medical Directives to work with Indirect Supervision
  • 7:08 Getting Oriented to a New Practice as a new PA Hire
  • 8:27 Common Conditions Seen
  • 9:18 Less Common Conditions Seen
  • 11:14 Working with Marginalized Populations
  • 13:57 Challenges on the Job

I currently work for an addictions medicine clinic group in the national capital region. I was fortunate enough to find this group through networking within the area with a colleague from prior work. I do quite a bit of PA advocacy in the region and I am constantly looking to introduce the profession into new clinics and settings.

The clinic itself primarily focuses on addictions medicine for lower socioeconomic status and low-income individuals. While the clinic acted as a centre of excellence for addictions care, they were eager to expand their services provided by the clinic and help more people in need. One of their community goals was to provide a “one door” model of care for their clients. After some digging, one of the largest gaps in care for their patient population was in accessing Primary Care.

The managing partner of the clinic and its physicians quickly came on board for adding a Physician Assistant to the clinic to help reduce this gap. While they were initially looking for a different type of advanced practice provider, they found that the Physician Assistant training, scope and model of care was more fitting for their needs. Funding applications were quickly adjusted to account for the new position and submitted to the government for approval. I am very excited to say that I am currently running the Primary Care Program for the clinic. While the focus is primary care, the PA also works to manage overflow from the addictions medicine clinic as well. We have seen a great response from the patients with increasing access, increased routine screening and a decrease in hospitalization visits. The clinic itself is expanding in number with more openings in 2021. Due to the great response, our plan is to add more PAs to the other centres as well.

It was a big move to make during the middle of a pandemic. Everything from the setting, specialty, patient population and barriers to care changed in an instant. This was accompanied by the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 with this group. It was a lot to work through when I first started, but I can safely say I couldn’t be happier in this position. There is such a big need for more professionals working with this patient group and it’s by far the most fulfilling job I have ever held. I am excited to see the profession grow in addictions medicine in the future!

Anthony’s Journey to Becoming a PA in Canada

Here Anthony tells me about his journey getting into PA school – where he did his health care experience hours, GPA, how he stood on admissions, and his experience going through PA School.

  • 0:06 Anthony’s Experience before PA school
  • 1:40 How Anthony obtained his health care experience hours
  • 4:47 Other health care careers he explored
  • 5:30 What drew him to the PA profession
  • 6:14 Applying to Canadian PA programs
  • 7:49 Anthony’s GPA for PA School
  • 8:20 Standing out on Canadian PA Admissions
  • 9:37 Anthony’s Experience in PA School
  • 10:59 How Hard is PA School?
  • 12:29 How Anthony kept up with studying for PA School
  • 13:26 Resources used in 1st year of PA School
  • 14:22 Anthony’s Experience in 2nd year of PA School

Graduate School: University of Toronto/Consortium 2018

Anthony’s Pre-PA Experience:

  • Paid: Ward Clerk – Combined Medical/Surgical Unit, Level 2 ICU [6 years]
  • Volunteer: Health Sciences Placement from Undergraduate – Physiotherapy Department CHEO [2 months]
  • Volunteer: Occupational Health & Safety – Physiotherapy Department [6 months]
  • Volunteer: CNIB Assistant [2 months]

The PA Job Hunt & Switching Specialties

Here Anthony shares his experience with the PA Job hunt as a new PA grad in Ontario, and how he switched specialties during his career as a PA.

  • 0:10 PA Job Hunt after Graduation
  • 2:16 Job 1: Working as a PA in Cardiology
  • 2:59 Job 2: Working as a PA in Neurosurgery
  • 4:53 Job 3: Working as a PA in Primary Care, Addictions and Mental Health

One of the great benefits of the PA profession in Canada is the ability to laterally move between specialties without returning to university. We are trained as generalists and further specialize through on-the-job training and supplementary certifications when necessary.

Although the interest in the profession and number of jobs is steadily growing, graduates from a PA program may still be limited to working certain specialties after completing the national certification exam, depending on availability.

It might take a few tries before finding a specialty and setting to call “home” and that’s okay! Prior to working in my current position, I worked in both cardiology and neurosurgery.

Reflections & Tips on Becoming a PA in Canada

Anthony reflects on his decision to become a PA.

  • 0:20 Is Anthony happy with his decision to become a PA in Canada?
  • 1:29 Impact of Adding a PA to a Practice or Department
  • 2:05 Things to Consider when Adding a PA
  • 4:19 Tips for Students thinking about Pursuing PA as a Career
  • 5:58 Final Words and Reaching out to Anthony


  1. Susan March 26, 2022 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    Hello Anthony! I’m currently a PA in the US but am looking to possibly move to Canada. Please send me any info you have as I have 5 years psych and 14 years total PA experience.

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