Physician practices have tough time competing with hospitals for physician assistants

Medicine Money
On average, physician assistants working in hospitals make more money than their counterparts in physician practices. (Getty/utah778)

Physician assistants (PAs) working in hospitals make more money and have more leadership opportunities and better benefits than their counterparts employed by physician practices, according to a new survey.

A 2018 salary report released by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) said that PAs employed by a hospital earned median base salaries of $107,000 in 2017, compared to $101,000 for PAs employed by physician practices.

The survey of 9,140 PAs found that those employed by hospitals are also more likely to report that their organization has a career ladder for PAs (27.7% vs. 11.0%), and that PAs hold formal leadership positions in their organization (57.5% vs. 28.2%). They are also more likely to have completed formal leadership training (12.6% vs. 8.7%).

Benefits are also better. PAs employed by a hospital typically receive more paid time off than those employed by a physician practice (20 vs. 17.8 days of general paid time off and 8.4 vs. 5 days of paid sick time).

RELATED: Medical practices that add nonphysician staff often see revenue gains

One-third of all PAs work for hospitals, according to the report.

The report said that robust salaries and leadership and benefit opportunities are available to PAs employed by both hospitals and physician practices, but there are clear differences between the two groups. And no matter whether they are employed by hospitals or physician practices, salaries for PAs are on the rise. The report noted a 2.9% increase in PA salaries, from a median base salary of $102,000 in 2016 to $105,000 in 2017.

That’s a bit less than a separate survey that found salaries for both PAs and nurse practitioners (NPs) increased in the past year.

The second annual survey by PracticeMatch, a job-matching company, found that PAs reported an average salary of $117,000, up 4.9% from the previous year’s reported average of $111,500. NPs reported an average salary of $113,900, an increase of 6.6% over last year’s average reported salary of $106,000. In addition, 8% of PAs and 5% of NPs reported earning more than $150,000 in 2017. The survey of nearly 1,100 NPs and PAs was conducted in March 2018.