Accessing Health Services in Canada

This guide (The Questions: About Alberta Health Care Services) was created by a student in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and U of A student volunteers with the support of a U of A Wellness Grant.

This resource focuses on helping international students and new Canadians in the following ways:

  • Improving access to health care and health information.
  • Addressing the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about health care services in Alberta.


Get Help for Your Health

Navigating available health care services while studying in Canada can be overwhelming. The following resources can help you to address your health-related concerns so that you can receive the health supports you need:

  • Talk to someone: If you feel unwell you can talk to health professionals located on or off campus, or to friends/family members who can help you find appropriate resources.
  • Call Health Link: Phone 8-1-1 to call Health Link-Alberta's free 24-hour health advice and information line-to quickly and easily access health advice or health information.
  • Call 9-1-1: Phone 9-1-1 immediately if you are seriously ill or injured (potentially life-threatening).
  • Check-in with your family doctor: Family doctors are typically the first point of contact for health care in Canada and they are the best option if you are seeking ongoing medical care.

  • Glossary

    Drop-in/walk-in clinic
    If you have a medical concern, you can visit medical centres without booking appointments (e.g., University Health Centre in SUB 2-200).

    Registered nurse
    A nurse who is licensed to practice after receiving 4 years of university-level training.

    This terms refers to health professionals who assess patients and determine who should be treated first. The priority in this case is not first-come, first-serve. Instead, priority is based on the severity of the medical situation.

    Additional prescribing authority
    Alberta pharmacists have a unique ability to obtain this type of authority. This authority allows them to write prescriptions for certain medications (e.g., antibiotics, antidepressants, inhalers, birth control drugs, heart medications, and diabetes medications) as a way to provide ongoing patient care.

    Referral health care system
    This means there is more than one level of health care service where, upon assessment from a health provider, you may be referred to additional medical services. In Canada, there is primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of health care services.

    Ongoing medical care
    Receiving ongoing medical care means that you are receiving continuous care, and/or coming back to the same doctor as other medical issues come up. This term can also indicate that you have a designated family doctor.

    Private practice
    Canada's health care system is publicly funded. However, some health practitioners offer services that are either partially covered or not covered at all (as outlined in your insurance plan) because they are not "medically necessary" services (e.g., cosmetic surgery). These health practitioners have a private practice.