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Cape Breton Regional Hospital emergency department welcomes first Physician Assistant, Stewart Zahara

 📸 Photo of Stewart Zahara, Physician Assistant at Cape Breton Regional Hospital's emergency department.

When a Physician Assistant (PA) position opened at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital’s (CBRH) emergency department, Stewart Zahara was excited about the prospect of serving the community where he was born and promoting the PA profession.

Physician assistants are a relatively new role in Nova Scotia, introduced under a pilot program in 2020 to support hip and knee replacement surgeries in the province. Since then, PAs have become an integral part of health care teams across the province. 

Physician assistants are highly skilled health care professionals who receive specialized training to be an extension of a physician. PAs provide a broad range of medical services that include conducting medical exams, performing procedures such as stitches or casting, prescribing select medications and much more, under the supervision of a physician.

Zahara started in this new role in September and is one of two physician assistants to support the emergency department. The second physician assistant position should be filled in the new year.

Zahara spent over 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces Medical Services, graduating from the first accredited physician assistant program in Canada and was honoured with the Surgeon General Award for top overall achievement.

“Now that I am more familiar with the emergency department, physicians and patient flow, I feel this position can really have a positive impact on the patients I am seeing,” said Zahara.

Retiring from military service in 2006, Zahara continued as a PA in the Stevenson Memorial Hospital emergency department. He would go on to complete a Masters of Physician Assistants degree and continue working in both primary and emergency care along with teaching the PA program through the University of Toronto.

Nova Scotia Health currently has physician assistants working in orthopedics, emergency and is continuing to expand the program in other areas, like primary care, to ensure Nova Scotians are receiving health care they need.

“Nova Scotia is not unique, in that across Canada people are having difficulty connecting with their family physicians, are limited with their appointments or are experiencing longer emergency waits,” said Zahara. “As a physician assistant, it feels good to know that when I’ve seen a patient, I’ve provided them with some comfort, great quality of care and a plan for them to move forward in confidence.” 

Photo of Stewart Zahara, Physician Assistant at Cape Breton Regional Hospital's emergency department.

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