How to Shadow a Physician Assistant in Canada

How to Shadow a Physician Assistant in Canada

Shadowing is a great way to learn about how PAs practice, the nature of the PA/MD relationship, how a PA is incorporated in a certain practice setting (e.g. Family medicine, vs. ER, vs. specialty practice like Plastic Surgery or Nephrology) and whether this is a health care profession you’d be interested in pursuing.

Finding a PA can be challenging compared to shadowing other health care providers. There are 26,000 Physicians in Ontario, 115,792 registered nurses in Ontario, and ~400 PAs in Ontario. There are usually several logistics involved with taking on a PA observers who is not a medical learner through a university (e.g. medical student, PA student). Our numbers do continue to grow and PAs do their best to accomodate requests!

If you are unable to obtain a shadowing experience, speaking with a PA over the phone to ask them about their day to day is also extremely helpful to gain insights. Also note that PA shadowing experiences are NOT a requirement to get into Canadian PA schools, and conducting an informational interview with a PA can be very insightful as well. Contact to request to speak to a PA and they can connect you to a PA to speak with.

Read Tips to Maximize your PA shadowing experience.

1. Shadow Canadian PAs Virtually

For a nominal fee, you get unlimited access to PAs for Research, Scholarship and Education in Canada virtual shadowing sessions.

Shadowing sessions covered so far include:

  • Canadian PAs in Emergency Medicine
  • Canadian PAs in ​Occupational Health
  • Canadian PAs in Paediatrics
  • Canadian PAs in Oncology
  • Canadian PAs in Neurosurgery
  • Northern Primary Care PAs – serving indigenous communities during COVID-19
  • Canadian PAs in Infectious Disease

In these shadowing sessions, you can learn about: 

  • Why PA?
  • A Day in the Life of a PA
  • Description of Specialty & Practice
  • Common Conditions, Rare Conditions
  • The PA/MD Relationship
  • How PAs work with other health care providers
  • Practice Resources
  • Interactive Case Studies – Learn about how a PA would approach a case

2. Reach within your own Network

Ask your colleagues, friends and family if they know Physician Assistants that you can shadow. Ask your family doctor, clinics, or specialists (if you’re seeing any) if they know of any practicing PAs – they may have had PA students in the past or know someone working with a PA.

You can also talk to your friends who attend universities that have PA programs (McMaster, Manitoba, and University of Toronto) if they know of PA students or PA program alumni.

PAs are more likely to take you on as a favour to someone they know as opposed to cold calls.

3. Reach out to Physician Assistants on LinkedIn

Get on LinkedIn and do a search of Physician Assistants in Canada or your area. You can then directly message them and ask if they are open to having a pre-PA student shadow them.

4. Contact your Provincial CAPA Chapter President

Contact Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) or the PA Chapter of the province/region you reside in: Look for the “Contact Us” link on the website and request the association set you up with a contact for a shadowing opportunity within your area.

Email to get started.

5. Attend a PA Program Information Session

Attend a PA Program Info Session and speak with a practicing PA directly: Each year, each of the PA programs holds an information session on campus.

The dean of the program, teaching faculty, current PA students and sometimes PA alumni who are practicing PAs attend these sessions to help answer questions at the end.

This is a great opportunity to speak with PAs directly and ask if they are open to having a pre-PA student shadow them.


Finding a PA to shadow in Canada can be challenging simply because there are so few of us in Canada! You can consider doing a PA informational interview instead. You can also learn about Canadian PAs in our PA Profile video interview series on youtube!

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