Physician assistants are getting higher pay, and an increasingly higher proportion of them are working in physicians' offices rather than in hospitals, according to a survey released today by the Alexandria, Va.-based American Academy of Physician Assistants.
The survey pegs the average 2003 starting salary for PAs at $64,565 and the median at $72,457, and it reports that more than 40% work in physicians' offices, compared with just over 36% in hospitals.
"We know that physicians are increasingly turning to PAs to assist in their practice, and that the practice of medicine is changing in America," says Steve Crane, executive vice president and CEO of AAPA, in a release. "This is particularly true as we watch the evolution of managed care and our focus shifts to community-based and outpatient care."
The AAPA says a related study by the Center for Studying Health System Change found that 48% of physicians outside of institutional practice settings were working with PAs or similar providers in 2001, compared with 40% in 1997.
Specifically, the AAPA's 2003 survey finds that 42.3% of PAs reported working in physicians' offices in 2003, a slight increase from 40.3% reported in 2002. The 2003 figure breaks down into just over 30% working in a group practice and 12.9% in a solo practice.
In comparison, 36.5% of PAs said hospitals were their primary work setting, a slight decrease from last year's response of 37.9%.
The AAPA says the shift from hospitals to offices is part of a long-term trend. In 1998, it says, 35.4% of PAs reported working in a physician?s office.
In terms of salaries, the AAPA reports that the $64,565 average for this year is up from $63,168 in 2002 and $59,839 in 2001. The median salary of $72,457 in 2003 is up from $72,241 in 2002 and $71,046 in 2001.
States in which the largest numbers of clinically practicing respondents are employed include New York (9.2% of U.S. total of PAs), California (8.1%), Texas (6.3%), Pennsylvania (5.4%), Florida (5.2%) and North Carolina (5.1%).
The AAPA survey also found a slight decline of PAs working in primary care
While PAs practice in all medical specialties, 44.2% of respondents in this year's survey reported focusing on one of the primary care fields, such as family/general practice medicine (30.9%), general internal medicine (7.8%), obstetrics/gynecology (2.8%) and general pediatrics (2.7%).
Cumulatively, these percentages represent a slight decrease from the total percentages of PAs working in primary care settings in 2002.
Other prevalent specialties for PAs were general surgery/surgical subspecialties (23.0%), emergency medicine (10.0%), and the subspecialties of internal medicine (9.5%), cumulatively representing a trend toward more specialty care being provided by PAs.
More than 20,000 PAs--about 45% of all PAs in clinical practice--completed the survey between March and September, the AAPA reports.