Shari Yasin, Canadian Family Medicine PA on the Frontlines of COVID-19

What I’m seeing on the Frontlines of Family Medicine

1) What have you seen on the front lines?

The short answer: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The long answer:

THE GOOD – Patients are making good choices. Many who I’ve spoken to are using the COVID-19 screening tools and other information resources to decide on testing versus self-management. We’ve had to do only a handful of assessments for upper respiratory complaints. Most patients are already practising social distancing or are in self-isolation.  Additionally, most patients prefer virtual care. They would rather stay home.

THE BAD – Patients lying to be seen. When we were still doing regular office visits, some patients were dishonest about their upper respiratory symptoms and travel history when screened by staff. It was a huge factor in our decision to move to virtual care temporarily.

THE UGLY – Bottles of hand sanitizer and stacks of face masks disappearing from the clinic. People are scared and desperate.

How COVID-19 has affected My PA Practice in Family Medicine

The biggest change has been the move to virtual care almost exclusively. It was the best way to ensure the safety of our patients and staff. I routinely did telephone appointments before the change, but this week was my first experience using a video platform. Overall, patients have been very receptive to our virtual care appointments, and surprisingly tech savvy!

“We’ve also taken steps to empower patients as much as possible. We sent out a letter and updated our website to provide them with the necessary tools, advice, guidance and resources to self-manage during this time. Once our letter went out and website was updated, there was a 70% decrease in calls about upper respiratory symptoms. Patients are smart. They just need the right information.”


Staff members are using an IM group chat to stay connected to each other, drop links to articles and infection control protocols, and have ongoing discussions about best practices on a daily basis.  The ongoing contributions to the growing pool of knowledge in this group chat has raised our collective “COVID-19 IQ.” This has enabled us to make better decisions about how best to care for our patients, our families and ourselves.

My Message to Patients, Health Care Providers and My Community

We’re all navigating the same murky waters right now. Reach out to your colleagues, and share with each other – whether it’s protocols, research articles, or any other relevant information that you found helpful. Contribute to the pool of knowledge.

“We’re highly trained medical professionals and people trust us. Own it! Keep educating your patients, friends, family members, neighbours, and social media networks on the seriousness of this situation and what they can do.”


The effort of every single health care worker counts at this time.

If there’s an opportunity to get more involved at work or in a different capacity, do what you can! I’ve certainly stepped it up a level.

When there’s a post-mortem analysis on how each country handled this pandemic, and what could have been done better, I sincerely hope Canada is among the countries that (mostly) got it right. And PAs will play an important role in how this all shakes out.

About Shari Yasin, CCPA

Shari Yasin works as a primary care Physician Assistant at a large FHO in Toronto serving approximately 10,000 patients. She has a B.Sc. degree from the University of Toronto, and completed her M.Sc. degree and studies in the Physician Assistant Education Program at McMaster University. Shari remains engaged within her medical community, teaching at the University of Toronto in the Physician Assistant Professional Degree Program, and serving on conference committees and health care panels.