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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Only a third of U.S. physician assistants working in primary care

It seems the physician assistant (PA) community is having the same problems getting and keeping new graduates committed to primary care as medical schools are having.

But those similarities could also map a route to improving the numbers.

A new study published this month in Annals of Family Medicine found that of more than 18,000 physician assistants surveyed in 2009, only a third said they were in primary care and that percentage declined for each graduate year through 2003.

PAs graduating between 2004 and 2008 reported a slight increase in the number going into primary care, although the researchers cautioned that study limitations made it difficult to determine whether this reflected the whole PA population.

The survey also found that female, Hispanic, and older PAs showed a slightly greater tendency to work in primary care – a trend similar to what is found among physicians.

Researchers said this suggests that the two communities should move in parallel paths to deal with the anticipated future shortage of primary care physicians.

“The PA profession,” the authors wrote, “should therefore continue to support workforce policy measures that successfully increase the number of primary care clinicians, including loan repayment, improved levels of reimbursement for primary care physicians, and expansion of Title VII” (funding that aims to increase the primary care workforce).

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