More than 70 percent of certified physician assistants (PAs) in the United States work in specialties outside of primary care, according to a new survey from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which collected responses from over 93 percent of the country’s 108,717 certified PAs.
The number of PAs has grown over recent years, owing to both the cost-effective nature of their positions and their contribution to increasing healthcare access in the face of the ongoing doctor shortage, as FiercePracticeManagement has previously reported.
While more PAs work in family medicine/general practice specialties than any other, the NCCPA highlights the significant numbers of PAs who contribute in emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, dermatology and hospital medicine. “The high percentage of certified PAs employed in surgical subspecialties demonstrates the high degree of trust and confidence that surgeons have in them,” said Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D, president and CEO of the organization in an announcement accompanying the survey.
Some key takeaways from the survey results:
- The vast majority of PAs work in office-based private practices (43.6 percent) or hospitals (37.7 percent).
- PAs see a substantial number of lower-income patients, according to the survey, with median percentages across all specialties of 30 percent Medicare patients, 20 percent Medicaid patients and 10 percent patients who do not pay.
- The PA workforce remains stable, with only 7.1 percent of principal PAs indicating they are likely to leave their position in the next 12 months. Because the median age of certified PAs falls at 38 years, the number expected to retire in 2016 remains vanishingly low at 0.6 percent.
- PAs reported a mean average work week of around 40 hours, during which they typically see 75 patients.
- Incomes for PAs cluster in the high-five-figure and low-six-figure ranges, with a median of $95,000 and a mean of $102,163.