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Becoming a Physician Assistant in Canada

June 9, 2024

Half of Canadian physicians, especially those in general practice/family medicine, experience high levels of burnout, as revealed by the 2021 National Physician Health Survey. This emphasizes the need for physicians to have physician assistants who can help in their workloads to significantly improve their feelings of overwork and burnout.

This article provides an overview of how to become a physician assistant in Canada, including what they need to do to qualify and the areas of medicine they can work in.

What is a Physician Assistant?

A Physician Assistant (PA) is a highly skilled healthcare provider who collaborates with physicians to deliver comprehensive patient care. PAs are trained to perform a wide range of medical tasks, including taking patient histories, conducting physical examinations, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and developing and implementing treatment plans. They play a crucial role in expanding patient access to health care and enhancing the efficiency of medical teams.

Steps to Become a Physician Assistant in Canada

Becoming a physician assistant and maintaining one’s professional status involves adhering to specific requirements set by the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA), summarized as follows:

A list summarizing the steps on becoming a physician assistant in Canada.

Assess Your Citizenship Status

If you’re considering becoming a PA, it’s important to evaluate your Canadian citizenship status to avoid any potential issues down the line. This is because all PA programs in Canada require applicants to be a Canadian citizen or to hold a permanent resident status. It’s a strict requirement and there’s no way to go around it if one wants to enrol and complete their PA education in Canada.

Apply, Study, and Complete a Physician Assistant Program

The next step is to research and apply to a recognized Physician Assistant program in Canada. Currently, there are several accredited PA programs across the country, each with its own admission requirements and selection process, but generally require the citizenship status previously described and the completion of undergraduate studies. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and combine classroom instruction with hands-on clinical training.

The following is a list of Canadian PA programs that are currently recognized by the CAPA:

Note that applicants who completed their undergraduate studies in different countries are still eligible, provided that they’re Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Write and Pass the PA Entry to Practice Examination

Upon completing your PA program, you will be required to write and pass the PA Entry to Practice Examination. This national certification exam, administered by the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC), assesses your knowledge, skills, and competence to practice as a Physician Assistant in Canada.

Passing this exam is a crucial step in obtaining your PA certification and license to practice, and can be taken only by eligible candidates who fulfil requirements including the completion of their PA studies, fulfilling specific clinical hours, and being a member of the CAPA.

Work as a Physician Assistant

Once you have successfully completed your PA program and passed the Entry to Practice Examination, you can begin your career as a Physician Assistant. PAs in Canada work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, family practices, and specialty care facilities. You can also explore a wide range of specialties, including general surgery, internal medicine, etc. Your duties will be determined by what you’ve been trained in, your experience, and the agreement with the supervising physician.

Take Note of Your CPD/CME Hours to Maintain Your Certification

To stay certified as a Physician Assistant in Canada, you have to complete a specific amount of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or Continuing Medical Education (CME) hours every year. These ongoing educational activities ensure you stay up-to-date with the latest medical knowledge and best practices, enabling you to provide the highest quality of care to your patients.

What Can a Physician Assistant Do?

PAs are trained under the same educational structure as that of physicians, but they aren’t physicians-in-training, since they’re not medical students, interns, or residents. They are healthcare professionals who enhance patient care by performing a wide range of medical tasks under the supervision of a physician, including the following:

The duties and responsibilities of a PA can differ based on the healthcare setting, the doctor they work under, and their own skills and experience.

There are also several documents available to CAPA members, which describe a PA’s scope of practice, including:

Can International PAs Work in Canada?

Currently, the only individuals who are eligible to practice in Canada are Canadian PAs with CCPA designation and American PAs with PA-C designation. There are still no immediate ways for international PAs from other countries other than the United States to practice as PAs in Canada. The only way for them to practice being a PA in Canada is to start over and complete their PA education and training program in recognized Canadian institutions and get certified.

Land a fulfilling job as a physician assistant in Canada with Caring Support.

Embrace Excellence in Healthcare with Caring Support

Physician assistants provide a broad range of medical services that allow patients to gain easier access to high-quality care. Truly, it’s a rewarding career where you can make a significant impact on your patients’ lives. However, becoming a physician assistant in Canada requires meeting specific education and licensing requirements.

At Caring Support, our goal is to help healthcare workers succeed and make a positive impact on the well-being of Canadians. Our healthcare-focused platform is specifically designed to help healthcare professionals in their professions, from job search and resume building, to tools and equipment necessary during their shifts. Create your free account with us today to experience the benefits of our comprehensive services.

About The Author
Cam Adajar
Content Writer

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