About physician assistants
Physician assistants are health care professionals who provide a range of health services to patients, delivering preventive and continuous care to manage patients’ health. Their work includes conducting patient interviews, performing physical assessments and taking medical histories; performing or ordering diagnostic tests and interpreting results; formulating and implementing treatment plans and monitoring patients’ progress; inoculating and vaccinating patients; performing and assisting in surgery; providing health maintenance education; and participating in research activities.
Physician assistants usually work in private practices, hospitals and clinics.
CIHI’s Health Workforce Database (HWDB) collects aggregate-level, standardized data on the regulatory environment, supply, and demographic and education characteristics of physician assistants in Canada.
- Data on physician assistants from 2013 to 2017 is available on request by completing this data inquiry form or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For more information on CIHI’s health workforce data, visit the HWDB metadata page.
Reports and analyses
- Canada’s Health Care Providers: Provincial Profiles, 2008 to 2017 — Data Tables (Jan 2019)
- Canada’s Health Care Providers: Provincial Profiles, 2007 to 2016 — Data Tables (Dec 2017)
- Canada’s Health Care Providers: Provincial Profiles, 2013
- Canada’s Health Care Providers — 1997 to 2011: A Reference Guide
The requirements to practise as a physician assistant (PA) are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another.
- Hold a bachelor of health sciences from a Canadian Medical Association (CMA)—or Accredited Review Commission (ARC-PA)—accredited program
- Pass the physician assistant Entry to Practice Certification Examination (applicable in most provinces)
- Register with a provincial regulatory body as required
Scope of practice
The scope of practice for physician assistants is articulated in provincial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of responsibilities that define the boundaries of professional practice.
Physician assistants are highly skilled health care professionals who are educated in the medical model and work under the supervision of a registered physician. The physician assistant has the skills and experience to deal with everyday health care needs and various specialty practice environments. Some of their main functions includeii
- Conducting patient interviews, histories and examinations
- Performing selected diagnostic and therapeutic interventions
- Counselling on preventive health care