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Physician assistants are one step closer to joining B.C.’s health-care workforce

September 27, 2023 at 11:27 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Physicians and patients may soon have another resource in health care as consultation begins on bylaw changes to enable physician assistants to work in emergency departments in British Columbia.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC), in consultation with the Ministry of Health, has posted the proposed bylaw changes online for public consultation and feedback within the next seven days. If approved, the amended bylaw will allow physician assistants to practise in emergency departments under the direction and supervision of physicians and will require them to register with the CPSBC.

“The Ministry of Health has been working with the College of Physicians and Surgeons to introduce physician assistants into B.C.’s emergency departments,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This will support health-care workers to provide services to patients and help patients access the services they need as we continue to build out team-based care across the health-care system.”

Physician assistants work under the direction and supervision of physicians to provide a broad range of health services, including performing patient exams, ordering laboratory and diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, managing treatment plans, and advising patients on preventative care and optimal health practices.

“The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. is pleased to be asked to license and regulate physician assistants,” said Dr. Heidi Oetter, registrar and CEO, CPSBC. “Physician assistants working in emergency departments will increase the workforce that provides emergency services and improve access to care for patients. The college joins its peers across Canada including the colleges in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta in licensing and regulating physician assistants.”

There are currently three physician-assistant training programs in Canada and training generally takes 24-months. Graduates are then eligible to write the certification exam from the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada to practise in the country. It is estimated that there are approximately 30 to 50 physician assistants living in British Columbia. 

Expanding the scope of health-care professionals is part of the B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy. The strategy supports patients by ensuring they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. It focuses on 70 key actions to retain, recruit and train health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

Actions taken to build out team-based care for patients around British Columbia include the recent licensing of associate physicians, the expanded scope of practice for pharmacists to prescribe for 21 minor ailments, the tripling of nurse practitioners, the new payment model for family physicians, the new collective agreement with nurses, the building of a second medical school at Simon Fraser University, the increase of 602 new nurse training seats in B.C. and the building of primary-care networks.

Learn More:

To view the proposed amended bylaw and provide feedback, visit: https://www.cpsbc.ca/about/laws-and-legislation/bylaw-amendments

To learn more about B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCHealthHumanResourcesStrategy-Sept2022.pdf

To learn more about the associate physician program and the practice-ready assessment program, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0067-001799

To learn more about the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., visit: https://www.cpsbc.ca/

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