Physician Assistants

On April 1, 2021, Physician Assistants (PAs) will come under CPSA regulation. We’ve supported this move for years and welcome PAs as the newest regulated member of Alberta’s healthcare team.

We’re still working on all the details for this change. We will update this webpage or connect with PAs directly as more information becomes available.

What is a physician assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are healthcare professionals who have the knowledge, training and skills to provide a broad range of medical services within healthcare teams. PAs provide care to patients under the supervision of a physician registered for independent practice in Alberta.

What services are offered by a physician assistant?

The services offered by a PA depend on the individual PA-physician relationship. Some PAs see and assess patients, take patient histories, perform physical exams, educate patients, perform procedures, assist in surgery and more. PAs provide these types of services under physician supervision.

How does the role of physician assistant differ from other healthcare professionals?

This chart helps explain how PAs fit in among others who provide similar levels of care:

 

Physician Assistant (PA) Clinical Assistant Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Not a physician or independent practitioner.
  • Must work under supervision of a physician and are trained to work under physicians in clinical settings.
  • Does not hold a medical degree, but has other post-secondary training.
  • Most commonly found in hospital settings as part of a healthcare team.
  • A physician who is not eligible to practise independently.
  • Typically an International Medical Graduate.
  • Doesn’t have equivalent clinical training to practice independently.
  • Hold a medical degree and at least one year of Post Graduate Training.
  • Generally hired for supervised practice in hospital settings.
  • A nurse who has pursued post-graduate training.
  • NPs, along with registered nurses (RNs), do not require supervision of a physician.
  • NPs/RNs have their own skillsets, scopes of work, standards of practice, etc.

 

What is CPSA’s responsibility regarding physician assistants?

Starting April 1, 2021, CPSA will begin regulating PAs. We have long supported the physician assistant regulation, and we’ve been engaged with PAs since 2010. Currently, there are over 60 PAs who have voluntarily registered with CPSA.

What responsibilities do physician assistants have as regulated healthcare professionals?

As professionals supervised by physicians, PAs will be expected to follow all CPSA Standards of Practice and comply with CPSA continuing competence requirements.

Once under CPSA regulation, PAs will need to formally register with CPSA. If you are a PA, watch for more information about our PA registration process.

What type of education is needed to become a physician assistant?

PAs in Canada receive their medical education through university programs designed to meet competencies outlined by the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA).  There are 4 PA education programs in Canada, and each program sets its own admission requirements.

I’m a physician assistant and I’ve voluntarily registered with CPSA. Will I need to register again in April?

Previously, our process was to maintain a listing of PAs who voluntarily shared their names, credentials and contact information with us. As of April 1, 2021, PAs will need to formally register with CPSA. More details will be shared as we approach that date.

Will physician assistants need to renew their registrations every year?

Yes, PAs will renew their registration annually.

Will there be a registration fee for PAs?

Yes, PAs will pay a fee to register with CPSA, and when renewing their registration annually. We will share fee information once it is available.