AAPA will update the FAQs on a regular basis. For questions not covered here, please email [email protected].

Title Change Rationale

Oregon has secured PA title change. Can I call myself a physician associate now?

On April 4, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed into law a bill that included a variety of healthcare provisions, including changing the title of “physician assistants” to “physician associates.”

While this is a significant and exciting milestone, it does not immediately authorize Oregon PAs – or PAs in any state – to begin using the title “physician associate” in a clinical setting.

The new law does not take effect until June 6, 2024.

Following the enactment of this law, the Oregon Medical Board will need to establish regulations and guidance before PAs can begin using this title in practice. A timeline will be established that PAs should follow. When available, that guidance will be updated on this page.

Please note that the Oregon law only changes the title for PAs licensed and practicing in Oregon and does not change the title for PAs licensed in other states. If a PA is licensed in Oregon and another state, the PA must continue to use physician assistant when practicing in other states.

Prematurely using the term “physician associate” could subject the PA to a regulatory challenge or discipline from their licensing board or an attorney general’s office action.

Please contact [email protected] with questions.

Why do both professional titles appear on the AAPA website?

AAPA is using the physician associate title throughout our assets and digital properties. Given the number of platforms and assets to be updated, the variety of audiences they reach, as well as legal considerations, it is expected that both terms (physician assistant and physician associate) will be used on the website for years.

Why is a professional title change good for patients and the healthcare system?

Excellent healthcare starts with a human connection and strong personal relationships. PAs are rigorously educated clinicians who are dedicated to providing quality care to their patients. And they understand that trust and connection begin with the first encounter with each patient. The new title – physician associate – directly addresses the common misperception that PAs merely “assist” physicians. They do so much more!

The value PAs bring to the U.S. healthcare system is undeniable, demonstrated by their frontline service during the COVID-19 pandemic. As highly respected medical professionals, PAs have an essential role in delivering high-quality, team-based healthcare. It is in the best interest of patients and the healthcare system for PAs to hold a professional title that ensures clarity about the work of PAs.

Does a title change impact PA scope of practice?

No. Changing the profession’s title does not change what PAs do or impact a PA’s scope of practice. PAs know what their scope of practice is; they are educated to recognize when circumstances call for consultation, collaboration, and/or referral.

PA scope of practice should be based on the PA’s medical education, training, license, experience, and competencies. In addition, a PA’s scope of practice is determined by state law, employer facilities policies, and the immediate needs of the patients served by the practice.

How does the title change affect the profession’s commitment to team practice?

As they have for more than 50 years, PAs will continue to be united with their healthcare colleagues by the shared mission of providing safe, effective, high-quality care to all patients. This commitment to a team-based model can only benefit patients when each team member’s experience and expertise is fully engaged. When PAs are empowered to practice medicine to the full extent of their medical education, training, and experience, communities see increased access to care, improved health outcomes, and overall well-being. AAPA remains dedicated to advocacy efforts aimed at reducing federal practice barriers affecting PAs and their patients.

Can PAs start calling themselves “physician associates” now?

PAs should continue to use “physician assistant” or “PA” as their official legal title in a professional capacity, particularly in clinical settings and with patients, until the jurisdiction governing their licensure and practice has formally adopted the title of “physician associate.” AAPA’s legal counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP, recommends that PAs refrain from representing themselves as “physician associates” at this time. Their view is based on the following:

  • Implementing the new HOD policy is going to be complex and challenging and may take several years to complete. There are many considerations that require thoughtful due diligence to ensure we do not jeopardize any aspect of implementation. It would be unwise for the profession to appear to be out in front of legislatures and regulators at the local or federal level. The next few years of work will be critical and must be strategically undertaken.
  • Prematurely using the term “physician associate” could subject the PA to a regulatory challenge or discipline from their licensing board or an attorney general’s office action.
  • Employers or healthcare facilities where the PA has privileges could view the action as a violation of policy, procedure, or professional staff bylaws.
  • There may be professional malpractice issues if adverse outcomes are linked to perceived “informed consent” violations from patients who claim they believed they were being treated by a physician. A malpractice insurer could use this as an excuse not to cover the claim.
What is the timeline for changing the profession’s title?

Changing the profession’s legal title at the state and federal levels is a long-term process. Title change implementation requires a significant commitment from the profession and other PA organizations in terms of financial obligations, resource allocations, and legislative and regulatory efforts.

AAPA has legally changed its corporate name to American Academy of Physician Associates, Inc.

A consistent title is critical to the continued growth and success of the profession. AAPA is committed to providing support and resources to each PA constituent organization pursuing professional title change through the legislative and regulatory process. Each constituent organization will decide if/when to change their organization’s name, which will vary based on the degree of legal implications for that organization.

How will I know what’s happening in my state regarding the title change?

State PA chapters will be on the forefront of professional title change efforts. AAPA will continue to work with each state chapter to pursue professional title change in state legislatures. To stay up to date on their state’s efforts, PAs are encouraged to join and remain active in the state PA chapters for the state(s) in which they practice. For more information, go to CO Resources (login required).

Where can COs get more information about changing their organization’s name?

AAPA has prepared a Constituent Organization Name Change Considerations Checklist (login required) as a resource for COs changing their organizational name as well as pursuing professional title change in their state.

How will professional title change affect the pursuit of other advocacy priorities?

State advocacy initiatives, such as Optimal Team Practice (OTP), will continue to be determined by PA state chapters.

Why did AAPA undertake a Title Change Investigation (TCI)?

As the healthcare environment has evolved to meet the growing and changing needs of patients, title change has been the subject of discussion within the PA profession. There has been long-standing concern about the disconnect between the perception of what PAs do – which includes the professional title – and the role of PAs in day-to-day medical practice. The concern is that the physician assistant title does not distinctly reflect their role and responsibilities in delivering high-quality healthcare to patients.

The May 2021 decision by AAPA’s House of Delegates (HOD) to change the profession’s title was the result of a methodical process that unfolded over the course of three years and was informed by rigorous and substantial research by independent experts.