Nearly 11,000 physician assistants earned their certification in 2021, a new record for a profession that has grown by nearly 30% in the past five years.
The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants said the number of newly certified professionals rose 10.4% in 2021. Altogether, there were 158,470 certified physician assistants in the U.S. last year.
Physician assistants receive thousands of hours of classroom education and general clinical training that allows them to later specialize and address a lack of access to primary care, mental healthcare and other services, said Jennifer Orozco, president of the American Academy of Physician Associates.
“One of the beauties of the PA profession is that they're trained as generalists and they're really set up to help solve some of our major healthcare crises,” Orozco said.
Almost 42% of physician assistants practice in hospitals, and 22% provide care in medically underserved areas. The percentage of certified physician assistants offering telehealth services increased from 8.4% in 2017 to about 34% in 2021.