10 Years of Physician Assistant Education in Ontario: A Tale of Two Universities

1400 – 1500 EST

Leslie Nickell, MSW, MD, CCFP; Dr. Kristen Burrows

Background: Physician Assistants (PAs) were introduced in Ontario to improve patient access to care, support delivery of care, and to enhance quality of care. Two Ontario civilian training programs are offered by the University of Toronto and McMaster University, both comprised of a 24-month curriculum of medical sciences and clinical rotations.

Methods: A joint survey was conducted to explore where graduates are working, how prepared they felt for their role, and barriers to working as a PA. At the time of survey release (November 2019), 387 students had graduated from the two programs; 82% of graduates responded to the survey (n=318); 90% are currently working as a PA.

Results: Graduates are employed in primary care/family medicine (27%), surgery/ subspecialties (25%), medicine/subspecialties (23%), and emergency medicine(12%); 74% work in an urban setting, 22% work in rural/underserved regions, and 3% have left the Province. Respondents feel well prepared for their role in patient education, moderately prepared for teaching and leadership, and less prepared to conduct research. 97% of PAs consider themselves part of an interprofessional team (working with two or more health professionals). Barriers to working to full potential as a PA included inadequate funding (74%), role misunderstanding (70%), role resistance from other health care providers (67%) and hospital policies (65%).

Discussion & Conclusion: Ontario University PA graduates provide a wide range of patient care and contribute to medical teaching, mentorship and quality improvement initiatives. PA training programs produce skilled and flexible healthcare professionals that can improve access to care and extend physician services.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session, the participant will be able to:

  1. Learn about where Ontario civilian PA program graduates are working, what they are doing, and their perceptions about how well their PA program prepared them for their current role;
  2. Understand how alumni and graduate data are used to inform curriculum design, to support and identify priority issues for PA advocacy within the health care system, and to ensure ongoing quality improvement of PA education programs;
  3. Appreciate how PA education programs help shape the expansion of the physician assistant profession across Canada.

Posted in: Saturday, October 17, 2020