One-third of all physician assistants work in hospitals

10/21/04

(Alexandria, VA) – More than one-third of all physician assistants (PAs) reported their primary work setting is a hospital, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) 2004 Annual Physician Assistant Census Report. Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents report seeing patients in at least one hospital and one in five (21%) report seeing patients in more than one hospital.

The physician assistant census is sent to all individuals, both AAPA members and non-members, who were believed to be eligible to practice as PAs in the United States. Thirty-seven percent of respondents listed a hospital as their primary work setting, with 10 percent of all PAs working in an emergency room, 9 percent in hospital inpatient units, 8 percent in hospital outpatient units, and 7 percent in operating rooms.

Other primary work settings reported by the census respondents were single-specialty group practice (20%), solo-practice physician offices (13%), multi-specialty group practices (9%), and Federally Qualified Health Centers or community health facilities (8%).

Physician assistants are licensed health professionals who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physicians. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in rural and urban settings. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and prescribe medications.

In the coming years, more and more PAs may be seen in the hospital setting as hospitals look for a way to fill gaps in their staffing schedules left by limitations on the number of hours that medical residents can work. Guidelines that went into effect in July 2003 limit the hours medical residents can work in a week to 80. Many hospitals are looking to PAs to make up the patient-care hours that would have been filled by residents.

"The PA profession was created to help fill gaps in the health care system. As the need for high-quality health care services in the hospital setting continues to increase, PAs are in an excellent position to meet those needs based on their high level of training and their focus on team practice," said Stephen Crane, executive vice president and CEO of AAPA.

While PAs practice in all medical specialties, 42 percent of this year's respondents reported that their primary specialty was one of the primary care fields: family/general practice medicine (30%), general internal medicine (8%), obstetrics/gynecology (3%), and general pediatrics (3%). Other prevalent specialties for PAs include general surgery/surgical subspecialties (24%), emergency medicine (10%), and the subspecialties of internal medicine (10%).

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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