Overview of the McMaster PA Program

McMaster University hosted a live stream of the PA Program information session in Hamilton, Ontario. The last time I had attended a PA Program Info Session was back in 2012, 1 year after graduation. Prior to that I had attended while I was a student, and back in 2008 when I was a prospective students.

Since I graduated in 2011, there have been a lot of positive changes to the McMaster PA Program. I wanted the opportunity to see what direction the program was going in as well as to see if there had been any changes to the application process.

McMaster PA Info Session

There were 3 presenters: Nancy Aza – academic coordinator, Ohood Elzibak – clinical instructor and Kristen Burrows – Assistant Dean of the BHScPA program. Each presenter discussed a different topic during the info session:

  • Part 1: Overview of McMaster PA Program
  • Part 2: What is a Physician Assistant?
  • Part 3: Why you should go to McMaster PA Education Program (Highlights) and Q&A. 

This entry looks at what was covered by Part 1.

Nancy Aza, CCPA a Physician Assistant working in Emergency Medicine, McMaster PA Program Academic Coordinator and clinical instructor. She reviewed the McMaster PA Education Program (PAEP), outlined the application process and characteristics of successful applicants, as well as discussed where the graduates of the program were working.

Overview of the McMaster PA Program

Screenshot of the Live Streaming of the event.

The First Year of PA school at McMaster consists of:

McMaster PA Student Association has a great article on a typical weekly schedule of a 1st year student.

  • Clinical sciences – medical foundations (MF1, MF2, MF3)
  • Clinical and communication skills:
    • Hands on sessions, also called “Interviewing Examination, and Reasoning (IER)” class are Tuesday morning sessions for 3 hours where you learn clinical skills (e.g. auscultating the chest for breath sounds and learning to identify adventitious breath sounds)
    • IER Placements: For example, if you are in the respiratory unit, you may do an observership with a respiratory therapist as they see patients. Here the clinical conditions that you witness correlate with what is being taught in the Clinical Sciences (Read Sandy Vuong’s overview of IER Placements)
  • Professional competencies is where that shape clinical practice
  • Longitudinal program involving half-day per week clinical observerships of your choosing (See MPASA’s Arranging Observerships Article and McMaster PA grad Sandy Vuong’s experience with Longitudinal Placements).
    • You can do it with any area of medicine with any allied health professional. This may include social workers, dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, paramedics, and pharmacists.

 The Second Year Placements:

Education Quality control, includes McMaster uses to ensure PA program is teaching to standards include: McMaster University policies/procedures, National Examinations (PACCC), Accreditation through the Canadian Medical Association.

Application to the McMaster PA Program

Who can apply for the program? 

Applicants require a minimum of 2 years of university education (any program), minimum GPA of 3.0, and no specific course requirements.

McMaster Physician Assistant Admissions 2017

The Admissions Procedure for 2016 McMaster PA Program, Handout at PAEP session 2016

Process of Application

  • Consult PAEP website
  • Apply online thru OUAC (Form 105D)
  • Send transcripts to the Registrar’s office (Fall 2016 must be included)
  • Deadline: Early February (see our updated Canadian PA Admissions for dates)
  • Access to the supplementary application will be sent by email in mid-February. Submit an $85.00 cheque or money order for the supplementary application assessment (due February 21st).
    • Supplementary application includes several questions about yourself (e.g. why you want to be a PA).

Read more on PA Admissions/GPA calculation from Sandy’s Blog.

The Multi-Mini Interview

  • Applicants move through 12 stations, with each station lasting 8 minutes.
  • Applicants interact with or are observed by raters
  • Stations deal with communication, collaboration, ethics, health policy, critical thinking, health awareness
  • Applicants are not assessed on scientific knowledge

Sandy wrote about her experience with the McMaster’s MMI, I have also covered the MMI in depth

PA Job Opportunities After Graduation

Where do McMaster PAs practice?

PA grads work in Family medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Orthopaedic Surgery, Surgery, ICU, Obstetrics/Gynaecology, and other specialty clinics.

PAs work in Hamilton and the GTA. However, there are a number of individual PAs working in other cities across Ontario, including rural settings. There are some McMaster PA grads that are also currently working in Manitoba.

Determinants of PA Job Opportunities

  • Government Support – Interested employers apply to Health Force Ontario to get funding for a new PA grad. Employers complete an application. If the ministry determines, they get a granted. The employers will then pick up the salary of the PA after 1 year.
  • Medical Profession Support – Physicians and Employers
  • The work
  • The money – What monetary resources are available to different clinical practices will determine what staff can be hired. Having a Health Force Ontario Career start grant is certainly helpful.
  • The imagination, drive and determination of the PA – You cannot expect anyone will hand you jobs. You have to think about what you want to do, what you have to offer, what you can bring the organization to show them you can show them benefits.

What you need to succeed at McMaster’s PAEP

  • Be energetic, innovative, motivated and self-starter (you get what you put into it, especially in a Problem Based Learning [PBL] environment)
  • A commitment to a role in health care
  • A willingness to do rotations anywhere in south central Ontario (the majority of placements in first year are done within Hamilton and surrounding area, in 2nd year however – clerkship rotations can happen anywhere in South Central Ontario)
  • Money – This is a really busy program, you may want to have part time job, in 2nd year this may not feasible. You will be on call.
  • A car – you have to have transportation to (e.g. if you have a placement in Niagara in first year, you have to be able to get there)

A Day in the Life of a McMaster PA Student: Video by Class of 2018

Class of 2018 present to answer questions at the PA Info Session

Are you planning to apply for this upcoming PA Admissions Cycle? Visit McMaster’s PA Student Resource Website. Get in touch with the McMaster PA program if you have any questions at: or leave a comment in our free Canadian Pre-PA Facebook Group