Physician Assistants

Learn more about Alberta’s newest regulated healthcare professional

About Physician Assistants

Physician Assistants (PAs) are trained healthcare providers who work under the supervision of a physician. PAs work in a variety of clinical team settings to complement existing services and help improve patient access to quality health care.

PA Regulation

On April 1, 2021, PAs came under CPSA regulation. We’ve supported this move for years and welcome them as the newest regulated member of Alberta’s healthcare team.

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

History of PAs

Physician assistants have a long history serving Canadians either in the public healthcare system or in the Canadian Armed Forces. While this may be the first time many have heard of PAs, they’ve played an important role in health care for decades.

"Physician assistants have played an important role in health care for decades."

- Dr. Scott McLeod, CPSA Registrar

Physician Assistant FAQs

All FAQs

Are there registration fees for physician assistants (PAs)?

Yes, PAs will have to pay:

  • A one-time registration fee of $400.00
  • A practice permit annual fee of $537.50

*At its March 5, 2021 meeting, CPSA Council approved to waive both PA fees for 2021.

As a CPSA registered physician assistant (PA), can I bill Alberta Health for my services?

No. Physician assistants cannot bill Alberta Health independently. PAs are paid by their group or Primary Care Network (PCN).

Do military physician assistants (PAs) have to register with CPSA?

If a PA in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is seeing civilian patients in Alberta, they must register with CPSA.

Do physician assistants (PAs) have to renew their registration every year?

Yes, PAs must renew their registration annually.

How can I hire a physician assistant?

The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA) posts physician assistant (PA) positions on their website free of charge for employers. CAPA can also email job advertisements to their Canada-wide membership (~700 PAs) for a fee of $250. See more information.

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.

 

I’m a physician assistant and I’ve voluntarily registered with CPSA. Do I need to formally register?

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.

What is CPSA’s responsibility regarding physician assistants?

On April 1, 2021, CPSA started regulating PAs. We have long supported physician assistant regulation, and have been engaged with PAs since 2010. Before the start of formal regulation, we had more than 60 PAs on our voluntary listing.

Registered PAs will continue to practise under physician supervision and like physicians, they will have to pay annual fees, hold liability insurance and follow CPSA’s Standards of Practice. They will also be responsible for complying with our continuing competence requirements.

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 responsibilities do physician assistants (PAs) 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.

With CPSA regulation starting April 1, 2021, PAs will need to formally register with CPSA.

 

What services are offered by a physician assistant (PA)?

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.

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

Questions? Contact us.