Physician Staffing Blog

Healthcare News and Trends

Physician Assistants – On the Front Lines of Care

October 12, 2020

Physician Assistants – On the Front Lines of Care

By Tom Florence, EVP at Merritt Hawkins


National Physician Assistant Week (October 6 – 12) is a good time to reflect on how PAs are making a difference for patients across the United States.


First and foremost, they are serving on the front lines of care during the coronavirus pandemic. PAs often are the first to diagnosis COVID-19 patients at physician offices, urgent care centers, minute clinics and other venues. They also serve in the emergency room and in intensive care, putting themselves at risk while treating the sickest coronavirus patients.


In addition, they are making it much easier for Americans to obtain timely access to care. In its June, 2020 study of physician supply and demand, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projected that the nation would face a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033 – an unprecedented shortage that could seriously undermine patient access to care.


The shortage of physicians would be much more severe, however, without the presences of a growing number of PAs, as the AAMC clearly states in its study.


Contrary to popular perception, the physician shortage will not be confined to primary care. The AAMC indicates that by 2033 the nation will have up to 55,000 too few primary care doctors but more than 84,000 too few specialists. PAs are playing an important role in alleviating the shortage of both primary care doctors and specialists, as most PAs now practice in specialty areas.


In addition, the proliferation of the “convenient care movement,” which is most visibly reflected in the rapid construction of urgent care centers nationwide, would be virtually impossible without the services of PAs. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which now see close to 25 million underserved patients a year, were early adopters of the team-based model of care and employ PAs in comparatively high numbers.


Ninety percent of patients surveyed in a study conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), said PAs make it easier to get an appointment and improve quality of care, showing that the important role PAs play has not gone unnoticed by the public.


Merritt Hawkins is proud to recruit PAs to hospitals, medical groups, urgent care centers, FQHCs and other facilities across the country. We extend our best wished to PAs nationwide and welcome any comments readers may have on the role PAs are playing in today’s evolving healthcare system.



Tom Florence is Executive Vice President of Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician and advanced practitioners search firm and a company of AMN Healthcare. He can be reached at tom.florence@merritthawkins.com


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