McMaster PA Info Night: What is a PA?

Following the presentation on the McMaster PA Program as well as Tips on the Application Process by Nancy Aza, my PA colleague Ohood presented on “What is a Physician Assistant?”.

Ohood Elzibak, an Orthopaedic Surgery Physician Assistant who is part of the very first class of Physician Assistants to graduate from a civilian program in Ontario (Class of 2010). She was also the recent recipient of the CPAEA PA Educator of the Year and embodies a lot of the competencies outlined by CanMeds-PA.

What is a Physician Assistant?

“Physician Assistants (PA) are academically prepared and highly skilled health care professionals who provide a broad range of medical services. PAs are physician extenders and not independent practitioners; they work with a degree of autonomy, negotiated and agreed on by the supervising physician(s) and the PA. PAs can work in any clinical setting to extend physician services. PAs complement existing services and aid in improving patient access to health care. A relationship with a supervising physician is essential to the role of the PA.” – From CAPA website

A PA according to Can-MEDS

The full outline of CanMEDS-PA can be found on CAPA’s website:

  1. Medical Expert: having knowledge, skills and competencies. Clinical tasks include history taking, physical exam, diagnostic tests, treatment plans and counselling.
  2. Communicator: patient-centered communication. This include confidentiality, privacy, and ensuring there is adequate documentation of your patient encounters.
  3. Collaborator: understand your own role, as well as roles of other health care providers on the team and work together on an interprofessional team.
  4. Leader: PAs can be leaders in healthcare organization, safety initiatives, getting on health boards and committees, starting your own business, research and teaching.
  5. Health Advocate: this includes promoting health, communities and populations and responding to the needs of the community.
  6. Scholar: using evidence-based medicine
  7. Professional: advocacy, honesty, integrity, compassion, respect, quality of care. PAs as dependent practitioners within a unique PA-physician relationship. ‘

Tasks taken on by a PA

  • Perform a complete Assessment and formulate a Clinical Treatment Plan
  • Implement effective management plans that include preventative and therapeutic interventions
  • Procedures: these may include both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, including injections (intra-articular, subcutaneous, intradermal), venipuncture, abscess incision and drainage, suturing, cryotherapy, removal of foreign body, burn care, local anesthetic injections, nasogastric tube insertion, pap smears, bi-manual pelvic exam, splinting and casting.
  • Assisting in the Operating Room
  • Medical Documentation
  • Research duties
  • Admin: Medical Legal Documentation, Lawyer Requests, Work Forms, Insurance Forms, Travel Forms, etc.

Concluding Thoughts

From Ohood, “At McMaster we are looking for people to take the profession, participating in research, pull new graduates up with them. We are still in pioneer and young profession, and we are looking for people who are motivated and feel passionately about it.”

Read Part 3: Highlights of McMaster PA Graduates.

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