American Academy of Physician Assistants

Survey: 90 Percent of Hospitals Employ PAs

95 Percent Will Maintain or Accelerate PA Hiring

Nov. 15, 2016

Contacts: Merritt Hawkins: Phillip Miller, 469-524-1420, phil.miller@amnhealthcare.com
AAPA: James Tyll, 571-319-4394, jtyll@aapa.org

DALLAS – Nine in ten hospitals now employ PAs (physician assistants), while an even larger number (95 percent) plan to maintain or accelerate PA hiring in the next 12 months, according to a new survey looking at hiring and other trends.

Conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician and PA search firm, in collaboration with the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), the survey examines PA staffing trends at 286 hospitals nationwide. The survey indicates that 89 percent of hospitals hired one or more PAs last year, while 60 percent of hospitals currently are recruiting PAs. For hospitals of 200 beds or more, the number actively recruiting PAs is 87 percent, while the number currently employing PAs is 96 percent.

“PAs are in high demand and have become a critical component of hospital staffs, where they are playing a key role in expanding access to care, ensuring quality, and implementing emerging, team-based models of delivery,” said AAPA President Josanne K. Pagel, MPAS, PA-C, Karuna®RMT, DFAAPA. “As the nation’s health system transitions to new staffing models and quality-driven reimbursement, the role of PAs will certainly expand.”

Survey findings indicate that the number of PAs in the U.S. is expected to increase by 38 percent between 2012 and 2022, with 8,900 new PA graduates entering the workforce each year. PAs are increasing patient access to care at a time when physicians and other healthcare professionals are in short supply, a trend underscored by the survey. The reason most cited by survey respondents for why their hospitals employ PAs is to enhance patient access to care, followed by enhancing the hospital’s quality of care and patient satisfaction.

“In order to accommodate increased demand for care, the clinical workforce is being reconfigured,” said Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins. “PAs, physicians and other health professionals are practicing to the top of their training in coordinated teams, so that patients see the right provider at the right time. PAs expand access to care.”

Further underscoring the growing role of PAs, over 95 percent of hospital human resource directors responding to the survey said they would maintain or accelerate PA hiring in the coming year, while 58 percent said PAs will take on more roles and job functions within their facilities. Some 71 percent of hospitals employ PAs in primary care, according to the survey, while 52 percent employ PAs in surgical specialties and 51 percent employ PAs in medical specialties.

More than 87 percent of survey respondents indicated their hospitals track how patients rate the quality of care PAs provide. Of these, 81 percent said patients rate the quality of care provided by PAs as above average to excellent, while approximately 18 percent rate the quality of care provided by PAs as average. Less than 1 percent indicated the quality of care provided by PAs as below average.

The survey suggests that PAs are, for the most part, filling clinical rather than leadership roles at the hospitals where they are employed. Only 15 percent of survey respondents indicated that PAs at their facilities are in management positions, such as department chair or committee member, though the number is higher for larger hospitals. The majority of survey respondents (over 52 percent) indicated that PAs at their facilities report to the medical staff, while 28 percent said they report to a department administrator. Less than 9 percent indicated their hospitals have a chief PA.

“PAs traditionally have not been a part of the hospital administration and management hierarchy,” said Tricia Marriott, PA-C, MPAS, MJ Health Law, CHC, Senior Advisor, AAPA Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management. “However, as PA staffing models evolve, hospitals and health systems are increasingly establishing leadership roles for PAs.”

The survey indicates that the terms used to refer to PAs vary. Fifty-percent of survey respondents indicate that staff at their facilities commonly refer to PAs as “midlevel providers,” while other terms include “advanced practitioner” and “advanced practice provider.” The most commonly used term, however, is simply “PA.”

The survey was emailed to approximately 4,000 hospital human resource directors from May through August, 2016. Two-hundred eighty-six responses were received, for a response rate of 7 percent. According to Merritt Hawkins, the survey is directional in nature and caution should be taken in extrapolating results to all hospitals. For additional information about PA staffing trends and related topics, see aapa.org and merritthawkins.com.

About the American Academy of PAs
The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) is the national organization that advocates for all PAs and provides tools to improve PA practice and patient care. Founded in 1968, AAPA represents a profession of approximately 108,500 certified PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories and the uniformed services. Visit aapa.org to learn more.

The AAPA Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management (CHLM) provides services for healthcare employers to increase access to care, improve patient outcomes, boost patient satisfaction and improve your bottom line. Visit chlm.org to learn more.

About Merritt Hawkins
Merritt Hawkins is the leading physician, PA and nurse practitioner search and consulting firm in the United States and is a company of AMN Healthcare the nation’s largest healthcare workforce solutions company.