Physician Assistants in B.C.

Access to Primary Care in B.C.


In B.C., almost 1 million residents have no family doctor and lack access to primary care. To fill the gaps, B.C. needs physician assistants.

  • Physician assistants help reduce wait times — why not in B.C.?
    • Adding PAs to primary care teams means that many doctors can offer more same-day appointments and reduce the time patients spend in waiting rooms. Health care teams that include PAs improve clinician joy in work and increase a physician’s roster.
    • In emergency rooms, PAs have been shown to help overstretched doctors, fast-track less complex patients, and bring down key benchmarks like the ‘leave without being seen rate’ and ‘initial practitioner assessment time’.
  • Physician assistants help improve access to care in rural and remote communities – why not in BC?

    • Rural communities, among the hardest hit by doctor shortages, are crying out for more health care providers. Adding multiple PAs in rural communities, under the supervision of just one physician, can have an immediate impact.
    • In a rural practice, PAs can:
      • Provide home, nursing home, and hospital visits.
      • Provide direct emergency and urgent care services.
      • Perform office procedures.
      • Provide after-hours consultations and work on-call.
      • Improve the continuity of care, especially for patients with chronic conditions.
  • Physician assistants help gain efficiencies and save money – why not in BC?

    • Beyond helping improve the quality of patient care, adding PAs has the potential to save money.
    • The Conference Board of Canada reports that if PAs could relieve more than 30 per cent of physicians’ time in all practice areas, this could represent $620 million in cost savings for the health care system.

Canada’s Recent PA Uptake

Today in Canada, PAs are practicing in New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Canadian Armed Forces. Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan have all recently invested in PAs.

B.C. is falling behind and is getting left in the dust.

Internationally, they play central roles in health systems in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. All of these jurisdictions are investing in PAs because the evidence shows they improve care in a manner that is patient-centred and cost-effective.

What can PAs do?

PAs are advanced practice clinicians who are educated in the medical model and practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician with negotiated autonomy, often within a multidisciplinary health team.

These highly skilled health professionals can work in any clinical setting to extend a doctor’s reach, complement existing services, and help improve patient access to care.

A few examples of their key functions include:

  • conducting physical exams.
  • ordering and interpreting tests.
  • prescribing medications and developing treatment plans.
  • providing patient counseling and preventative health care; and
  • assisting in surgery.

There are three PA education programs in Canada. Each program is responsible for setting its admission requirements and the respective websites below offer a wealth of information. If you have specific questions, please contact the education programs directly.

Today, restrictive policy and regulatory statutes are holding PAs back from filling the gap in B.C.’s health workforce. The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants is calling on the B.C. government to integrate physician assistants into the province, modernize its Health Professions Act, and start using PAs to help fix some of the issues that have plagued the health system for years.

PAs are changing the face of health care and it’s time to add them to the team in B.C.

For more information and to get involved, please contact Manager, Advocacy and Communications, Tiaré Marko at