Canada needs Physician Assistants (PAs) to make health care more accessible, however, more training spots are needed to expand the PA model of care.
The process of becoming a physician is a lengthy and complex one, as outlined in an op-ed from the Star on May 25th, stating that medical schools must reflect training realities.
A key solution to increasing access to care is Physician Assistants (PAs).
PAs are physician extenders who are trained as generalists in the medical model and can assist with any task within their supervising physicians’ scope of practice.
Beyond helping improve the quality of patient care, expanding on the use of PAs will save the health system money as proven in a 2016 report from The Conference Board of Canada.
While improved access to quality care and cost-effectiveness would undoubtedly enhance the current health system, the reality is, we need more training spots for PAs, including the creation of new training programs.
Two of the three PA education programs in the country are in the province of Ontario at McMaster University and the Consortium of PA Education at the University of Toronto, however, even then the programs only graduated a combined 54 students last year despite having received over 2000 applications between the two schools.
To top-it-off, new legislation will be coming into effect that will regulate PAs under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, resulting in even greater demand for the profession, from employers, patients, as well as aspiring PAs.
If medical schools are in tune with the health care landscape in the country, then they would jump at the opportunity to boost the number of PAs entering the workforce. Despite this model leading to increased access to care and saving the health care system money, there are not enough training spots in the province to meet the ongoing and projected employment opportunities within the current health care system. For this, educational institutions would be well-advised to take notice.
About the Author
Sahand Ensafi is a practicing Physician Assistant at UHN in Toronto and is the Ontario Provincial Director for the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants, which is the national voice of Physician Assistants in Canada, supporting quality standards and competencies and helping to establish the profession within the national health care framework.