(L-R: Saira Rashid, CCPA; Jeff Straw, CCPA; PA-C, Michelle Belanger, CCPA; Katrina Dekirmendjian, CCPA; Rachel Shekhman Goldstein, CCPA; and Alifiya Goriawala, CCPA)
November 27, 2019 is National Physician Assistant Day, a day to recognize physician assistants (PAs) and educate Canadians about their contributions to health care in Canada.With its origins in the Canadian Armed Forces, PAs have been working in Canada’s health care system for more than 50 years. Currently, there are over 700 certified PAs in Canada and they are an integral member of health care teams in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Manitoba.
At Mount Sinai Hospital, PAs are practicing in several specialties: General Surgery, Emergency, Gastroenterology, Obstetrics/Gynecology, and Orthopedics. “PAs have been an invaluable asset to our academic health care team,” says Dr. Alexandra M Easson, Department of General Surgery. “Using this model helps extend the work of physicians, and provide great care for patients.”
PAs receive their education through an accredited university program, and are trained in the medical model allowing them to practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician, often within a multidisciplinary health team. These highly skilled healthcare professionals can work in any clinical setting and improve access to patient care. A few examples of their key functions include:
- conducting histories and physical exams
- ordering and interpreting tests
- prescribing medications and developing treatment plans
- providing patient counseling and preventative health care
- assisting in surgery
Since PAs are involved in shared decision-making alongside the physician, they are able to provide high quality and seamless patient care. Last year, a report from the Conference Board of Canada called physician assistants “a largely untapped resource that can help governments continue to provide high levels of service while reducing overall system costs”. The report recommended that health systems optimize the use of PAs and that governments implement appropriate funding models.