Physician Assistants work across different provinces in Canada and in a wide variety of settings. However, compared to other health care jobs – PA is fairly new and have not yet been introduced to all provinces and territories in Canada… yet. We hope to see the expansion of PAs across all of Canada, and this is an initiative the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) continues to work on.
Here we’ll go over where PAs are currently working, when they were introduced, as well as what areas of medicine you can find PAs practicing.
PAs By Province and Territory
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. Read about Military PA Education & Practice with Nick, CCPA→
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.
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).
PA Schools – In 2008, McMaster University and University of Manitoba launched the first two civilian PA programs. This is followed by Consortium of PA Education (University of Toronto, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences) who introduced another PA program in Ontario in 2010.
At present civilian PAs practice in four provinces- Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
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.
Physician Assistants by Practice Setting
PAs can be found in hospital and non-hospital settings such as:
- physician offices
- community clinics
- long-term care homes.
PAs may also work in occupational settings, correctional facilities and retail clinics.
PAs work in hospitals include:
- hospital wards / inpatient floors
- Intensive Care Units (ICU)
- Complex Care Units, Complex Continuing Care (CCC).
They can found in ambulatory outpatient clinics, inpatient clinics, hospital rounds, multidisciplinary rounds, academic teaching centres, and acting as surgical first assist in the operating room.
They can also perform on-call duties taking on consults from different services.
Physician Assistants by Area of Medicine
PAs practice across almost all specialties in medicine, including Family Medicine, Emergency and Internal Medicine. There are also PAs practicing in Orthopaedic Surgery, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Physiatry, Cardiology, Surgery, Gynecologic Oncology, Oncology, Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Psychiatry, Respirology, Nephrology Plastic Surgery, Dermatology, Pain Medicine, Addictions and more.
Each PA role differs depending on where they are hired.
You can read about PAs across different practices in our Canadian PA Practice Profiles
If you are interested in seeing PAs practice in other provinces and territories, write to your local MLA/MPP, or contact CAPA firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can get involved.
- Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (n.d.). Legislation. Retrieved March 03, 2018, from https://capa-acam.ca/pa-employers/legislation/
- Jones, I. St-Pierre, N. (2014) Physician assistants in Canada. Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants: March 2014 – Volume 27 – Issue 3 – p 11–13
- Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (n.d.). Canada’s Physician Assistant Historical Timeline. Retrieved April 1, 2018 from https://capa-acam.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Historical-Events_Sept_2017_FINAL.pdf
My daughter is interested in becoming a pa but wants to come back to British Columbia to work and be near her family. Any news on the bc front for pa’s
Hi Shelley, Thanks for the question! At present PAs cannot work in British Columbia. The most up-to-date information on Advocacy can usually be found on the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants. If you email email@example.com, they may be able to provide you an update.
I will be starting my nursing program to become an RN this fall at Western in Ontario and was curious if I transferred into McMaster or U of Toronto’s PA program after 2 years of nursing school if that had been done before as in are the prerequisites still pretty open, would my program satisfy the prereqs, what prerequisites are needed? Also working wise are PA’s unionized or are they able to negotiate their wages and such in Canada?
So yes! Always double check the pA program admission requirements on each of their respective websites (canadianpa.ca/paprograms) to double check, the the RN program at Western University would help satisfy those requirements.
In Manitoba, PAs have collective agreements that are available publicly and you can see the pay scales PAs are on: https://www.pcam.ca/collective-agreements/
PAs are able to negotiate their wages in Canada and flexibility depends on multiple circumstances and practice setting (whether with a private employer / medical office or with a hospital).
It’s extremely discouraging as a physician Assistant with over 30 years experience who is interested in practicing in the Maritimes to continuously be hitting roadblocks to practice . Yet while over and over again hearing about the dire need for primary care providers through public radio. Even though the need has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the ability to practice in primary care as a physician assistant is not available. I understand there are 2 PA practicing in the Fredericton area however but it’s also my understanding that these are the only two positions in them e province and has been since at least 2014. I would be interested to hear if that is no longer the case.
There is definitely a need for PAs and there is underutilization of the profession, especially in the Maritimes. With the introduction of PAs in Nova Scotia through the pilot project, my hope is it will open the door for more PAs to be introduced in this region. To find out progress in New Brunswick, you can reach out to CAPA (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out any progress on advocacy efforts.
Yes, that is unfortunate. I’m from BC and would like to return at some point in the future.
Is there any mention of PAs practicing independently as they can in a few states within the USA?