October 27, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jenni Roberson, 703.380.2764
First National Survey of Physician Assistants on COVID-19 Crisis
Furloughs, layoffs, and access to PPE top concerns for these frontline medical providers
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 19, 2020) – A new national survey of PAs (physician assistants) was released today from the American Academy of PAs (AAPA). It shows the considerable contributions of PAs and the scale at which they have had to adapt to meet the needs of patients during the COVID-19 crisis. It is the first effort to quantify the experiences of these frontline medical providers. Almost one third of PAs have had to go without necessary personal protection equipment (PPE), and that increases to 39% for those who have treated COVID-19 patients. There is also a sizeable portion of our nation’s healthcare capacity that stands idle, with 22% of PAs furloughed.
The survey also reveals that the number of PAs who have changed specialties (5.9%) or practice settings (9.9%) over the last 10 weeks nearly equals the number of PAs who changed in the entire year of 2019, indicating that PAs are being rapidly redeployed in specialties and practice settings where they are needed most. Further, half of PAs have tested, treated, or diagnosed COVID-19 patients.
“We see how quickly the PA workforce is adapting to this crisis when given the chance to contribute,” said David E. Mittman, AAPA’s president and chair of the board. “AAPA applauds the 21 states that made it easier for PAs to pivot and provide care by fully or partially waiving supervision or collaboration requirements through COVID-19 executive orders or through previous emergency-related legislation or regulation.”
In most states, PAs are required to have and maintain a relationship with a physician in order to practice. This is an archaic requirement that gets in the way of patient care. In March, AAPA called on all U.S. governors to include language in executive orders waiving physician supervision or collaboration requirements for PAs during a declared public health emergency or disaster. Thus far, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Louisiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia have done so.
More than one in five PAs (22.1%) have been furloughed due to COVID-19, while 3.7% of PAs said they had been terminated. Nearly three in five PAs (58.7%) cited a reduction in hours worked, and 30.6% cited a reduction in base pay.
“When one in five PAs are furloughed, that means we have highly trained medical providers forced on the sidelines when they could be on the front lines,” Mittman said. “In more than half of states there are barriers preventing a surgical PA, for example, from testing and diagnosing patients in the emergency department. More states must ease these practice restrictions so that PAs can fully contribute to the COVID-19 response.”
More than 70% of PAs are at least somewhat concerned with their health and the health of their families. AAPA has joined other provider organizations in asking Congress and the Administration for more PPE for frontline healthcare workers and will continue to do so during the pandemic.
“Our nation’s leaders need to understand the scale of the challenges that healthcare providers are experiencing on the front lines,” Mittman said. “As the professional organization representing PAs, our duty is to advocate for the health and well-being of every individual who chooses to serve.”
The survey was conducted on a random sample of PAs over a 12-day period from April 25 – May 6. The survey results reflect PA respondents who indicated they have clinically practiced in the last four months. The survey had a margin of error of +/-3.8% for clinically practicing PAs.
PAs are highly trained and qualified medical professionals, who diagnose illness, develop, and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. They are educated at the master’s degree level in the medical model over a 27-month-long period. There are more than 140,000 PAs in the U.S. who work in all medical settings and specialties.
To learn more about PAs, go to aapa.org.
About the American Academy of PAs
AAPA is the national membership organization for all PAs. PAs are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. Learn more about the profession at aapa.org and engage through Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.