Fast-Growing Physician Assistant Workforce Ready to Meet Healthcare Demand

Thriving PA profession celebrates National PA Week Oct. 6–12

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Currently there are 86,500 certified physician assistants practicing medicine across the country, an increase of more than 100 percent over the last 10 years.

The threat of a physician shortage is becoming a healthcare reality. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015, the country will face a shortage of 62,900 doctors. Savvy patients and a cost-conscious marketplace are demanding new models of care that utilize all providers to their fullest potential, increase access and improve health outcomes.

"Fortunately, team-based, patient-centered medicine is the hallmark of the PA profession and a perfect fit for today's changing healthcare system," said James Delaney, PA-C, president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. "PAs are educated and credentialed as medical generalists, allowing them enormous flexibility to step up and coordinate care, bridge gaps and solve problems — particularly as we enter a new era in healthcare."

According to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, the number of accredited PA programs increased from 54 in 1991 to 170 today, and is poised to continue its growth with more than 62 new programs that could potentially be accredited by July 2016. Currently, about 6,000 certified PAs enter the workforce each year. Of those, approximately 75 percent are women, joining a profession that is already more than 60 percent female.

A PA is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine as part of a team with a physician. PA master's degree programs take about two and a half years to complete and are modeled on the medical school curriculum, a combination of classroom and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications.

Increasingly, PAs are taking on new roles in emerging healthcare models, such as patient care coordinators in accountable care organizations and in retail settings. Still, many are transitioning into leadership roles as healthcare administrators, educators and legislators, such as U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a former PA.

"There is no better time to be a PA than right now," Delaney said. "The PA profession was founded to increase access to care, and as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act plays out at the state level, we know the demand for the unique role PAs play will only increase."

The first PAs graduated from Duke University Medical School in 1967. They were former Navy corpsmen returning from Vietnam. Dr. Eugene Stead created the profession to maximize utilization of their existing skills and experience as civilian healthcare providers during a shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Stead based the curriculum of the PA program on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.

The profession will honor PAs' invaluable role in transforming the future state of healthcare during National PA Week. Held every year from Oct. 6 to 12, PA Week is a time when PAs and PA students celebrate their profession through local and national events designed to increase awareness of the value PAs bring to today's healthcare team.

See real stories and videos of PAs in action at

About the American Academy of Physician Assistants

Founded in 1968, the American Academy of Physician Assistants is the national professional society for physician assistants. It represents a profession of more than 86,500 certified PAs across all medical and surgical specialties in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the U.S. territories and within the uniformed services. AAPA advocates and educates on behalf of the profession and the patients PAs serve. It works to ensure the professional growth, personal excellence and recognition of physician assistants and to enhance their ability to improve the quality, accessibility and cost-effectiveness of patient-centered healthcare. Visit and to learn more.

SOURCE American Academy of Physician Assistants