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4 Problems Facing Physician Assistants that Prevent the Profession from Advancing

Physician assistants comprise one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S., and every day more young people choose to pursue this career. But as is the case with many healthcare professions, the path upward for PAs isn’t always clear cut.

Researchers at the Annual Health Workforce Research Conference (hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges) addressed some of the challenges PAs face — both as individuals seeking to advance their careers and the profession as a whole.

RELATED: Higher Pay, Better Benefits for PAs Employed in Hospitals

A lack of diversity

One paper found that PA students are often deterred by a lack of diversity when choosing a PA program to attend, especially female students and students from underrepresented minorities. When programs fail to prioritize building a diverse student body, this limits educational options for PAs and ultimately impedes creating a more equitable workforce overall, the researchers say.

Staying in metro areas

A second paper found that PAs approaching retirement were much more likely than new PAs to work in rural/non-metro areas as primary care practitioners. This means that younger PAs who relegate themselves to cities are missing out on opportunities to take on more responsibility in healthcare settings.


Surprisingly, younger PAs have higher rates of burnout than those approaching retirement. One explanation, according to researchers, is that young people prefer to practice in cities, where the work could be more draining. Regardless, keeping burnout at bay for younger care providers is crucial to maintaining a healthy workforce. Staffing shortages are likely to persist well into the future.

As a PA, you can make changes to your daily routine at work to protect against burnout. As an employer, you should keep your staff’s work-life balance, benefits and compensation competitive.

RELATED: 8 Changes to Make at Work to Prevent Burnout as a Healthcare Provider

Staying with the same employer or specialty

According to another study, PAs increasingly change their employer (around 12 percent of PAs) and speciality (around 6 percent) on an annual basis. After switching jobs, PAs tended to report higher levels of satisfaction, often as a result of receiving better pay and benefits. Meanwhile, changing specialties can offer better work-life balance, which prevents burnout, expand your skillset and help you find your passion.

Disregarding telemedicine

Only 8 percent of certified PAs use telemedicine, and most of this group does so less than 10 hours a week, according to researchers. Living in an isolated, rural setting was an important predictor of using telemedicine — meaning PAs in other areas don’t often consider the benefits of telemedicine. A few of these include: more efficient workflow, higher patient satisfaction, more revenue and reaching more patients.

That said, there’s so much career potential for physician assistants. In fact, a recent survey by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants found PA salaries are up by 15 percent over the past six years alone. And the increasing demand for PAs only means more opportunity for you to leave your professional mark.

Physician Assistant Pay Eclipses $110K Annually, Forbes.

Last updated on 10/2/19.

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