At present civilian PAs practice in four provinces- Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick – with a pilot project starting in Nova Scotia in 2019.
Military PAs and PAs who work in occupational health (e.g. mines) may have job postings outside of the provinces listed (e.g. BC, Nunavut and the North West Territories).
The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is working on rolling out PAs in more provinces and territories.
Military – Military PAs can be stationed across Canada (including remote places such as the North Pole), as well as overseas and in the navy. Canada PAs have a long history in the Canadian armed forces (CAF), and the term ‘Physician Assistant’ was first used in 1984 to describe senior medics. In 2002, a 2 year PA Education program is re-designed and launched by the CAF. This was accredited in 2004. In 2016 PAs were commissioned to officer status.
A glance at the PA profession in Canada
Manitoba – It was in 2003 that Canada’s first civilian-licensed Physician Assistant started practice in Manitoba. In 2009 the Manitoba Medical Act was changed to include title protection and a separate registry for Physician Assistants.
Ontario – In 2006 the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term care announced the introduction of PAs into its province, with the start of the Ontario PA Demonstration Project in 2007. Ontario now has the largest number of PAs in Canada. On April 27, 2021, Ontario’s Minister of Health introduced legislation, once passed, to regulate PAs in Ontario. On June 3, 2021 Bill 283 Advanced Oversight and Planning in Ontario’s Health System Act received Royal Assent. Regulation of PAs in Ontario will be through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO).
New Brunswick – In 2009, New Brunswick introduced legislation for PAs to work with the introduction of two ER PAs in Fredericton. In 2014 PAs were awarded prescriptive rights in Alberta.
Alberta – In 2009 the Minister of Health requested that the CPSA include PAs in the Health Professions Act as a regulated health profession and to develop a voluntary registry under the College. This was released by the college in 2010, and in 2013 the Alberta Health Services with the MOH launched a PA demonstration Project, with PAs employed in rural primary care, urban hospital settings (e.g. surgery, internal medicine, and obstetrics). As of April 1, 2021, Alberta’s Government passed legislation regulating the PA profession in Alberta through the Health Professions Act.
Nova Scotia – In 2019 Nova Scotia announced a pilot project to introduce PAs into the province. In January 2020, three Physician Assistants joined Orthopaedic Surgery as part of a pilot project in Nova Scotia. The first reading of the Physician Assistant Act was passed in Halifax, giving the Minister of Health authority to make regulations around PAs.
PA Schools – In 2008, McMaster University and the University of Manitoba launched the first two civilian PA programs. This is followed by the Consortium of PA Education (the University of Toronto, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences) who introduced another PA program in Ontario in 2010.