PA Workforce Reaches New High in Practices, Other Healthcare Settings

September 19, 2011

The number of practicing PAs has increased a whopping 100 percent in the last ten years, according to new research. This trend is a good one for physician practices

Does your practice employ a physician assistant or two? If so, you’re in good company. The number of practicing PAs has increased a whopping 100 percent in the last ten years, says new research. 

According to the 2010 Census Report and Salary Report, released earlier this month by the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the number of practicing PAs reached 83,466 in 2010, a 100 percent increase over last 10 years. Additional data reveals that female PAs outnumber their male counterparts by nearly 20,000, and more than 30 percent of PAs practice in primary care, making it the largest specialty for PAs.

Nearly 30 percent of PAs practice in single-specialty physician group practices, and 40 percent have been in their current primary specialty for at least six years, according to the report. The Census also shows that PAs enjoy their work, as 66 percent indicate they are satisfied or mostly satisfied with their career.

For many reasons, this trend is a good one for physician practices.

“Most everybody benefits from having a PA in the practice,” Ann Davis, senior director of state advocacy and outreach for AAPA, tells Physicians Practice. “Having a PA helps physicians use their time and talents in a more effective way.”

As many physicians know, PAs can lessen the load of their doctor counterparts by taking care of follow-up visits, treating less-acute patients, focusing on prevention and education, and answering questions for patients, says Davis. And because PAs deliver many of the same services provided by physicians at lower salaries, employing a PA at a practice becomes a cost-effective way to deliver care.

So why aren’t more physician practices working with them? Perhaps one of the reasons is that many older physicians didn’t train with them.

“Studies show that younger physicians are more likely to work with PAs, and more likely trained [in medical school] with PAs,” Davis said.