10 facts, statistics on physician assistants

There are currently more than 95,000 certified physician assistants in the U.S., according to a paper recently released by the National Governors Association.

Some additional facts and statistics from the NGA paper, which summarizes the role of PAs in U.S. healthcare, are listed below.

  • In the mid-1960s, PA was created as a position to relieve a shortage of primary care physicians.
  • PAs working in family medicine earn about half the salary of physicians, and those working in specialties earn about one-third as much as physicians in the same specialty.
  • PAs make up 10 percent of the primary care workforce and represent 9 percent of clinicians in community health centers.
  • The percentage of PAs working in primary care decreased from about 70 percent to 34 percent between 1974 and 2012.
  • Nearly half of PAs report having worked in two to three areas of medicine over their careers.
  • PAs are able to prescribe in all 50 states, but in 14 states, some limitations are placed on the types of medications PAs can prescribe.
  • In 11 states, there are stipulations regarding a specific list of tasks physicians are allowed to delegate to PAs without having to get approval from the state medical board.
  • Few PAs (3.4 percent) report that their supervising physician works offsite.
  • A physician's signature is required on some percentage of the charts of patients whom PAs treat in 24 states.

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