What is a Physician Assistant?

Did you injure yourself? Are you struggling with an aching joint? What’s your diagnosis and do you have a treatment plan?

Many people find themselves stuck without a clear diagnosis or have had an injury and unsure how to get the proper care in a timely manner. In the public health system, it’s hard to find an available expert quickly to help get you on the road to recovery. Here’s where Acumen Clinics’ Physician Assistants (PA) can step in.

At Acumen Clinic we believe in providing the best possible care for orthopaedic patients and value the role our Physician Assistant plays in the patient care process. You may be offered the opportunity to start your treatment journey seeing a PA who works directly under Dr. Slade Shantz.

Common ailments a Physician Assistant sees include:

  • Arthritis (shoulder, elbow and knee)
  • Tendinitis and tendinopathy (shoulder, elbow, knee, etc)
  • Acute orthopaedic injuries resulting from sports or other activities such as:

A Physician Assistant is exactly that, they assist the physician while under Dr. Slade Shantz supervision. They have trained and work closely together in order to provide the same care. Orthopaedic Physician Assistants are qualified to:

  • Take medical history
  • Perform physical exams
  • Order diagnostic tests
  • Diagnose and provide medical advice
  • Create a treatment plan

Although Physician Assistants practice independently they always have the support of their partner physician to ensure safe, high-quality care. Since we treat orthopaedic conditions, our PA’s are trained specifically in this area and have a wide range of experience with sports injuries, arthritis and tendinopathies.

At Acumen Clinic we see ‘PAs’ as a way to increase the reach of our patient-centred practice and improve the quality of care.  Before patients are booked for an appointment we try to determine if a surgeon’s opinion is needed (Are you are a surgical candidate or not?). Our patients always have the option of coming directly to the surgeon. However, in some cases, it’s likely that patients would find value in seeing a Physician Assistant. Regardless, patients who only see the PA, our surgeon, Dr. Jesse Slade Shantz, reviews every case.

PA’s in the literature:

  • The development and implementation of Physician Assistants worldwide were in large part due to doctor shortages, increasing wait times, and rising healthcare costs (Hooker, 2007).
  • Physician Assistants have been shown to increase access to medical care by decreasing wait times and providing timely care (Theunissen, 2014; Ducharme, 2009; Halter, 2018).
  • Physician Assistants were found to decrease surgical wait times and increase patient satisfaction (Bohm, 2010; Scott, 2017).

Currently, there are upwards of 500 Physician Assistants working in Canada (Pasquini, 2019) and we are happy to utilize one in our clinic and offer PA services to you and help to improve patient-centred care!


Alberta Health Services. (2019). Alberta Health Services. Retrieved from Physician Assistant (PA): https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/info/Page9882.aspx

Bohm, E. et al. (2010). Experience with physician assistants in a Canadian arthroplasty program. Can J Surg, 103-108.

CMA & CAPA. (2012). Canadian Medical Association. Retrieved from Physician Assistant Toolkit: https://legacy.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/PA-Toolkit-e.pdf

Ducharme, J. et al. (2009). The impact on patient flow after the integration of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in 6 Ontario emergency departments. Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 445-461.

Halter, M. et al. (2018). Contribution of physician assistants/associates to secondary care: a systematic review. BMJ.

Hooker, R. et al. (2007). The Globalization of the Physician Assistant Profession. The Journal of Physician Assistant Education, 76-85.

Pasquini, S. (2019, March 5). Where PAs and Physician Associates Can Work Internationally. Retrieved from The PA Life: https://www.thepalife.com/physician-assistants-pas-and-associates-around-the-world/#Canada

Roy, C. et al. (2008). Implementation of a physician assistant/hospitalist service in an academic medical center: Impact on efficiency and patient outcomes. J. Hosp. Med., 361-368.

Scott, K. (2017). Canadian PA. Retrieved from Life as an Orthopaedic Surgery PA in Canada: https://canadianpa.ca/orthopa_kim/

Theunissen, B. et al. (2014). Fast Track by physician assistants shortens waiting and turnaround times of trauma patients in an emergency department. European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, 87-91.

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