Rapid growth in the number of certified physician assistants, report says

The number of certified physician assistants (PAs) working in the United States has jumped significantly over the last five years, according to a newly-released report.

The report from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the group that provides certification for PAs, says the number of certified PAs has increased over 35 percent in five years. Some 109,000 certified PAs provide care for over 7 million patients a week in every state and across every specialty, the report said.

The increase in the number of PAs comes as the healthcare industry seeks to find ways to address the primary care shortage, with one nationwide survey finding patients are more open to care provided by PAs.

"What it tells us is that certified PAs are an integral part of today's healthcare system, opening up much-needed access to care for all populations," said Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., president and CEO of NCCPA, in an announcement. "The ever-increasing demand, as evidenced by the fact that PA degree programs are expected to grow from 199 today to 273 in 2020, means that certified PAs will continue to step up and fill the healthcare gaps wherever they exist. "

Other findings from the report include:

  • PAs are working in both primary care and subspecialties. Over 70 percent of certified PAs work in specialties outside of primary care, including over 18 percent in surgical subspecialties and 13 percent in emergency medicine.
  • PAs are working in both urban and rural areas. The states with the largest number of PAs per capita are Alaska, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maine and New York.
  • It is a young profession, with a median age of 38.

PAs are increasing access to care for underserved patient populations, as FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. Bilingual patients and those covered by Medicaid and Medicare are increasingly seeing PAs for their care, one report found. The NCCPA report found over 22 percent of PAs communicate with patients in a second language, with over 81 percent of those PAs able to speak Spanish.

PAs are in high demand and earn an average salary of $112,680, according to one recent survey.

To learn more:
- read the report
- here's the announcement