CAPA Letter to Federal Health Care Leaders

Ms. Tina Namiesniowski, President, Public Health Agency of Canada
Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health

Dear Ms. Namiesniowski, Dr. Tam, and Minister Hajdu,

We are writing on behalf of the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) regarding physician assistants (PAs) and potential contributions to the federal health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to your current call to create an inventory of nurses to have on-call, we are asking you to consider the benefits of integrating the PA model in the federal workforce. We would be pleased to provide additional information about Canada’s PA workforce and are requesting the opportunity to speak by phone with your officials in the coming weeks.

COVID-19 Policy Implications

The impact of the novel coronavirus on Canada’s health care workforce and our current response to the pandemic have important short and long-term policy implications.

Before COVID-19, the shortage of health care professionals in many parts of the country was dire and it is now clear that Canada needs a comprehensive strategy to expand the workforce. Some physician regulatory colleges have already asked retired physicians to reregister for their licences. The Canadian Medical Association formally recommends the establishment of emergency pan-Canadian licensure for health care professionals to easily practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates:

“In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health care workers.”

It is vital that, during this time of national crisis, our federal health leaders not miss the opportunity to call Canadian PAs into service, along with our physician and nursing colleagues.

Regulatory Relief for PAs

A critical regulatory relief measure that can help boost the government’s health workforce capacity is the immediate authorization of physician oversight of PAs in federal health care settings where they are not yet integrated.

PAs are “physician extenders” and work as advanced practice clinicians under the supervision of a licensed doctor to provide primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of settings (more here in our Information Brief). Provinces like Manitoba and New Brunswick, where PAs are regulated under provincial physician colleges, provide a roadmap for how physician oversight can efficiently and effectively function. In the Canadian Armed Forces PAs often operate as senior medical leaders, both domestically and internationally, and the CAF can offer an example of oversight that can be quickly replicated.

The shifting of medical tasks, through substitution or delegation, to free up physicians for more complex care, is a key benefit of integrating the PA model. The PA model allows for the efficient reorganization of the workforce and provides one viable solution for improving coverage, efficiently using human resources, and increasing capacity.

Ready To Serve

Right now, PAs are with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and many others at the frontline of this pandemic. They are helping to manage COVID-19 screening and testing sites, managing isolation areas where respiratory illnesses are screened and treated, and manning telephone help lines to divert patients from the emergency department.

During this time when the federal government is exploring policy measures to respond to COVID-19, CAPA strongly believes that integrating the PA model is worthy of serious consideration.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. And, more importantly, on behalf of our members we thank you all for your leadership, commitment, and compassion during this very difficult period.

Sincerely,

Leslie St. Jacques, CCPA
President

Patrick Nelson
Executive Director

President’s Message — COVID-19

I’m writing to recognize the incredible effort you are all putting forward to help Canada respond to COVID-19. Whether you’re in emergency departments, primary care, surgical specialties, or in our Canadian military, so many of you are at the frontline of this pandemic.

In the last few days, I’ve heard about PAs that are running COVID-19 testing clinics and others who are actively managing an isolation area, where all respiratory illnesses are sent to be screened or treated, until testing sites are activated. And you’ve likely seen our own Maureen Taylor, an Ontario PA in Infectious Diseases and former medical journalist, interviewed several times by national media outlets.
These are just a few examples of your impact—I know there are many more.

I’m incredibly proud to hear these stories, but I also know that many of you are feeling the stress associated with this unprecedented situation and the risk you experience in your work.

It’s important that you acknowledge that this stress is normal and can impact anyone working in health care today. Try to find time to rest and recover, take a break from media coverage, and most importantly, ask for help if you feel overwhelmed.

RESOURCES

Managing stress

The EM Ottawa Blog post on Managing Stress and Anxiety Related to COVID-19 has been widely shared in recent days. It offers strategies we can all use and I encourage everyone to read it.

There are other resources, including links below to sign-up sheets or contact people who are offering health care workers help with the everyday tasks of life outside the hospital or clinic. (This is just snapshot, so please enquire in your community about what might be available):

Helpful podcasts

The American Society of Microbiology’s This Week in Virology has a podcast page with high-quality discussions among physicians, scientists, students and others.

World Health Organization

This one-hour course on “Infection Prevention and Control for Novel Coronavirus” offers a helpful review of infection control procedures.

And more here on “Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities of Health Workers, Including Key Considerations for Occupational Safety and Health”.

ADVOCACY

You may have read recent stories about provinces asking retired doctors to re-register and the federal government creating a nursing inventory. In the coming days CAPA will be writing to various federal and provincial stakeholders to remind them of opportunities to leverage the PA profession during this global crisis.

CAPA 2020 AND THE CERTIFICATION EXAM

Lastly, we have all seen health care conferences in Canada and around the globe postponed to help flatten the curve. With both our annual conference and the PA certification exam scheduled for October 2020, we are proceeding with “business as usual”, but are closely monitoring the situation. We will, of course, communicate with members should timelines change.

THANK YOU

Thank you again for your professionalism and dedication. In the days, weeks, and months ahead please be sure to take care of yourselves and each other.

Sincerely,
Leslie St. Jacques, CCPA
President

Proven health initiative stalled for last decade—New Brunswick lags behind other provinces

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is asking the Higgs government to fulfil its campaign pledge and hire more physician assistants as part of provincial health reform

FREDERICTON, February 25, 2020—The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) is calling on the New Brunswick government to hire 30 new physician assistants (PAs) to help address the province-wide shortage of health care professionals. The recommendation is part of CAPA’s submission during the public pre-budget consultation process.

“Health workforce staffing is the underlying issue in this health care crisis,” said Kevin Dickson, CAPA’s Provincial Director for New Brunswick. “Our message to Premier Higgs is that the next budget must include measures to establish a pipeline of PAs who have the training and skills to meet patient needs, tackle wait times, and advance team-based care.”

PAs are highly skilled advanced practice clinicians who work under the supervision of a licensed doctor to provide primary, acute, and specialty care in all types of settings. Other provinces, and countries around the world, use the PA model to address unmet needs, decrease costs, and boost the efficiency of the physician workforce.

Unlike other new roles in health care, PAs represent a new workforce that can fill existing vacancies, instead of simply shifting gaps from one profession to another. And with a generalist training, the government can quickly deploy PAs to fill needs across the health system.

CAPA’s 2020 pre-budget submission makes three key recommendations on how New Brunswick should be leveraging the PA profession to benefit patients:

  1. Provide health authorities with funding earmarked to hire an additional 30 PAs over the next three years, at a cost of approximately $3.6 million.
  2. Expand the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick’s regulation of PAs to allow PAs to work in all clinical settings and beyond the direct employment of a regional health authority.
  3. Work with physicians, health system leaders, and municipalities to identify the clinical settings and communities where PAs should be deployed to have the greatest impact on patient access to care.

“New Brunswick is stretched to capacity,” said Dickson. “If the government is serious about innovation in health care, it’s crucial to add more PAs to bridge the gaps in care and improve the services we all depend on.”

Additional Information

Reports from the Conference Board of Canada on the role, effectiveness, and value of physician assistants:

About the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is the national voice of physician assistants in Canada. We support quality standards and competencies and help establish the profession within the national health care framework. Learn more: capa-acam.ca.

First Canadian PA to undergo formal training in advanced POCUS

Point–of-Care Ultrasound at SHN is changing Emergency care for the better

Danielle Lucky is passionate about helping people. It’s why she loves working in the Emergency department (ED) – where people come when they need help the most. When a patient walks into the ED, providing them with the care they need, as fast as possible, is crucial.

This year, Danielle became the first physician assistant (PA) in Canada to undergo formal training in advanced point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). At Scarborough Health Network (SHN) an innovative new program geared towards expanding the use of POCUS, is training highly skilled PAs, like Danielle, to do just that…read more on the Scarborough Health Network website.

Announcing Physician Assistants for Research, Scholarship and Education in Canada (PARSEC)

Recently, the Canadian Physician Assistant Educator Association (CPAEA) has undergone a name change and is now known as Physician Assistants, for Research, Scholarship & Education in Canada (PARSEC).

The change comes as the organization expands its work beyond supporting PA education. PARSEC supports PA research, scholarship and education across Canada, and is committed to fostering collaboration and a community of practice among PAs. Read more in the official announcement from PARSEC below or visit their website.

Physician Assistants for Research, Scholarship, Education in Canada (PARSEC)

PARSEC is an association of individuals with a shared vision and commitment to Canadian PA research, scholarship, and education. For many years, the Canadian Physician Assistant Educator Association (CPAEA) supported PA education. Given the growth of the profession across Canada, we recognized a need to renew.

The term “parsec” is a unit of measurement in astronomy that considers the time and future location of an object.

PARSEC reflects that how we practice, how we learn, and how we educate PAs is in constant motion and
must consider future outcomes and interests as the profession moves forward.

PARSEC Objectives:

  1. Support PA research, scholarship and education in Canada.
  2. Encourage collaboration and a community of practice among PAs.
  3. Advocate for high quality PA educational standards and continuing professional development opportunities.
  4. Foster the professional and academic development of the Canadian PA profession.

Proposed Activities of PARSEC:

  1. To support an annual University based PA Research Workshop (alternates between educational sites) that helps establish a foundation of research and garners research interest in the PA profession.
  2. To support a forum for the presentation and dissemination of PA research to foster a community of practice.
  3. To support the developing of academic scholarship and promotion of educational standards to ensure the ongoing quality of Canadian PA education.

Membership:

Funding for this non-profit association is dependent on donations and member support. Membership is open to any interested individual or organization. Contributions can be made directly to PARSEC or through CAPA.

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