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Physician Associate v. the Physician Shortage

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The Launch of the Physician Associate

Physician shortages in the healthcare industry have been an ongoing issue for decades. In  1965 Eugene A. Stead MD, Duke University Medical Center created the first Physician Assistant (PA) class to alleviate them. That first class consisted of four Navy hospital corpsmen who were medically trained. The PA training was based on fast-track doctor training during WWII. Since that first class graduated in October 1967, PAs were quickly accepted as relief for the physician shortages per aapa.org. According to BU.edu, there are now 254 accredited PA programs throughout the United States, and nearly 140,000 PA certifications issued. As the profession has evolved, so has the name, from physician assistant to physician associate.

PA Growth and Evolution

In the last twenty years, the physician associate (PA) profession has evolved rapidly.  There were 41,000 graduate PA programs in 1998, while in 2017 there were 123,000 programs in the United States. The number of programs has more than doubled from 1998 to today, for many reasons.

The physician shortage isn’t the only factor spurring the growth of PA demand. The growth of the PA salary and acceptance and recognition throughout the medical industry helped the profession explode. Today, PAs practice medicine in every state, DC, and Guam, where they are authorized to also prescribe medications. Physician Associates currently care for 9.5 million patients per week in the United States.

Physician Assistant v. physician shortage
Physician Assistant v. physician shortage

Ways Physician Associates Offset the Physician Shortage

When you consider physician retention, you should include a physician associate in the discussion.  The physician shortage is a highly discussed topic, but it has been a problem at least since the 1960s. More than 140,000 certified Physician Associates in the US provide an opportunity to lighten the burden of doctors. This is because PAs can offer some of the same services as physicians.

To become certified, PAs have to pass a rigorous exam before they can practice. They also must pass written assessments every ten years. Bi-annual continuing medical education courses are mandatory for PAs. PAs can order and review lab tests, prescribe medicines, refer patients, and counsel patients. All of this is done on a lower salary than a doctor’s and can save countless hours for the physician.  It can even allow for some physician time off.

PA’s also managing visits, and conduct preventative as well as administrative work. They can contribute to risk-adjusted coding, Medicare annual wellness visits, prep charts, and preventative medicine. Practice revenue typically improves even as physicians are relieved of some of their operational duties.

Why Physician Associate Is One of the Hottest Jobs Today

A physician associate with none to one year of experience was over a $100,000 median salary back in 2018. There are many opportunities to work a 9 am to 6 pm shift and still have a work-life balance. Even better, PAs commonly report their work experience feels fulfilling.  They get to know their patients but are still able to enjoy evenings with their friends and families.

For young people, the work-life balance, salary, and flexibility to move between specialties make PA programs popular. Additionally, compare the three-year PA program to the seven to ten-year medical school programs for physician training.  You begin to understand their enthusiasm.

While PX3 Medical Staffing focuses on physician and executive recruitment, we recognize the critical value of this growing healthcare position. We regularly help our clients find and recruit bright Physician Associates. We know it strengthens the overall healthcare organization and enhances physician retention across the nation. Get more information here or call us at (925)948-8749.

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