Growth of certified PAs hits 35% in 5 years

Physician assistants are growing rapidly in popularity throughout the U.S. The profession grew 35 percent in five years, so that at the end of 2015, there were more than 108,700 certified PAs practicing in the U.S., according to data from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. 

"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," Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, president and CEO of NCCPA and a certified PA, said in a statement. "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."

The NCCPA released this information as part of a comprehensive "2015 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants," which contains data from 93 percent of all certified PAs. Here are 10 more key takeaways on the growing PA field. 

  • Certified PAs practice in every state, but Alaska, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maine and New York have the highest rates of certified PAs per capita.
  • The median age of the profession is 38 years old.
  • In 2015, 67.2 percent were female. 
  • The profession is still predominantly white (86.7 percent), but 3.9 percent identify as black or African American, 5.3 percent identify as Asian and 6.2 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino. 
  • Almost a quarter of PAs (22.6 percent) are able to communicate with patients in a language other than English. Of those who do, 81.5 percent speak Spanish. 
  • More than 70 percent of PAs work outside of primary care. 
  • More than 18 percent work in surgical subspecialties, most commonly in orthopedic surgery. 
  • More than 13 percent work in emergency medicine. 
  • PAs work about 40 hours per week on average and the majority work in office-based private practice or hospital settings. 
  • The average full time PA treats about 75 patients per week. 

More articles on integration and physician issues:

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