Three Tips for Recruiting and Retaining Top Physician Assistants

April 12, 2014
David Doyle

To continue to attract and keep top-quality physician assistants on staff, private medical practices should consider three approaches.

Physician assistants are a vital part of any successful practice. But in a lot of areas of the nation, there aren’t enough high-quality professionals to keep pace with demand. While physician shortages have dominated recent headlines, some speculate that PAs could soon be in short supply as well. This is bad news when you consider the fact that many practices have already increased their reliance on PAs in order to keep their overall costs in line.

To continue to attract and keep top-quality PAs on staff, private practices should consider three approaches:

1. Work with a medical recruiterThe Medicus Firm recently released its top 10 list of healthcare provider placements ranked by specialty for 2013. PAs appeared on the list for the first time, checking in at number six. Bob Collins, managing partner at The Medicus Firm, noted, “As physicians experience more demands for their time, advanced practice providers are being sought by employers to help meet the needs of the community and provide the volume of care in demand. We continue to see more searches come in for nonphysician providers and expect this trend to grow in coming years.”

If your practice is having trouble locating and hiring a top PA, it might be time to outsource the search process to a medical staffing firm. A good recruiter can save your practice time and money by taking on all aspects of the recruitment and hiring process, requiring payment only once a new hire is finalized.

2. Partner with local educational institutions
Can’t afford the services of a recruiter? Try building relationships with prospective PAs. A recent article in Academic Medicine stated there are 173 accredited entry-level educational programs for PAs in the United States. These programs added 6,545 PAs to the workforce in 2011, and graduation numbers should continue to climb as more programs become accredited. In fact, some researchers predict a 72 percent increase in the number of PAs by 2025.

Attracting recent grads to work at your practice is a nice goal, but you’ll face stiff competition for the top students. Practices can get ahead by building a relationship with students before they graduate. Reach out to a local educational program and offer to serve as a rotation site for their students. This will allow you to evaluate potential new hires in a clinical setting. It will also provide a recruiting advantage, as new graduates typically choose to work in a familiar practice.

3. “Train up” current PAs
Attracting top-notch PAs to your practice won’t do your practice much good if staff turnover rates are high. Therefore, practices should also focus on retaining their top talent. Schedule quarterly one-on-one meetings to determine how satisfied each physician assistant is with his job. Ask if the PA has any suggestions for improving things within the practice, and try to determine whether the person feels like he is lacking any support or resources that would enable greater productivity. You should also use this time to offer some constructive feedback. This will show your PA that you and the practice believe his long-term success is a top priority.

Consider making it easier for PAs to pursue educational opportunities through organizations such as the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Professional seminars and networking events will help PAs continue to improve their skills, which will ultimately benefit your patients and your practice.

Practices that make an effort to build relationships with PA students and recruiters will ultimately be able to make better hires. And then continuing to support and “train up” PAs once they’ve joined your practice should keep them around for years to come, providing your practice with a competitive advantage.