New Physician Assistant Training Program at Dalhousie will help address Health Workforce Challenges

New Physician Assistant Training Program at Dalhousie will help address Health Workforce Challenges

Published on January 2, 2024

New Training Program at Dalhousie will help address Health Workforce Challenges
First new Canadian PA Program in more than a decade opens doors! 

Ottawa, Ontario – January 2, 2023

With health care workers in short supply and access to timely quality care lacking, Dalhousie will launch a 2-year Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program to help meet the pressing demand. This marks a significant milestone as the first PA program to be introduced in Canada in over 10 years. The inaugural class will begin in January 2024 with 24 seats.

“We heard from doctors that having more physician assistants would free up time, allowing them to focus on more complex issues or things that only physicians can do,” said Health Minister Michelle Thompson. “We know we need more healthcare providers, and physician assistants can help provide Nova Scotians faster access to care. We are proud to be able to train physician assistants right here in Nova Scotia.”

In addition to Nova Scotia investing in a PA program, earlier this year the government announced $1.7 million to add 10 new PAs to collaborative primary care sites across the province. Adding one PA to a site has the potential to increase the patient roster by at least 500. These advancements follow the successful 2019 pilot project at the Nova Scotia Health Authority for three PAs to work in orthopaedic surgery to help tackle hip and knee surgery wait times.

As of August 2023, there were 7 PAs practicing in Nova Scotia with the province actively working to recruit more. On top of this, military PAs started working at the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre in Lower Sackville in January 2022. In addition, military PAs receive medical training in the province to maintain clinical readiness skills to treat patients.

PAs work alongside physicians to deliver comprehensive patient care. They can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications. With a longstanding history of delivering safe and efficient healthcare, their role dates to the 1960s in the United States and Canadian Military. PAs have increasingly become recognized as valuable contributors to the Canadian healthcare system, particularly in Manitoba, Ontario, and Alberta, with the remaining jurisdictions pledging to introduce the profession this past year.

The MPAS program at Dalhousie is the first of its kind in the Maritime Provinces, aiming to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enhance access to care and significantly contribute to the health and well-being of Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotia resident and PA Erin Sephton was instrumental in the development of the program at Dalhousie stating "The launch of the MPAS program at Dalhousie University is a transformative moment for healthcare in the Maritime Provinces. This initiative will not only empower aspiring PAs with the necessary skills but will also contribute to addressing the healthcare needs of our communities. I am excited about the positive impact this program will have on healthcare delivery in Nova Scotia and hopefully this will inspire other Canadian provinces to do the same."

Dalhousie’s MPAS program is a testament to the commitment of advancing healthcare education and addressing the evolving needs of the Canadian healthcare system. As the first of its kind in the region, it is poised to make a lasting impact on the accessibility and quality of healthcare in Nova Scotia.

For More Information contact:

Kristy Corrente, Director of Advocacy and Communications, CAPA | 613-864-6713 

About CAPA:

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) is the leading national organization representing physician assistants in Canada. CAPA is dedicated to promoting and advancing the physician assistant profession and supporting the professional growth of its members. With a mission to improve healthcare through excellence in the physician assistant profession, CAPA provides a platform for education, advocacy, and collaboration among its members and partners


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