Title

American health workforce policy and PAs: A brief history

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

8-1-2022

Journal

JAAPA : official journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants

Volume

35

Issue

8

DOI

10.1097/01.JAA.0000840508.75042.ce

Abstract

Health workforce policy in the United States from the mid-1970s has been strongly influenced by perceptions of the adequacy of the physician supply and its relationship to physician assistants/associates (PAs) and NPs. During the 1980s, a series of inaccurate reports by the federal government mistakenly warned of an impending physician surplus and shaped policy decisions for decades. In spite of perceptions of a physician surplus, the PA profession expanded rapidly in the 1990s. Projections of the adequacy of the physician supply changed to a shortage in the first decade of this century and the PA component of the healthcare workforce continued to expand. During the past decade, the Association of American Medical Colleges has employed microsimulation modeling expertise to project the extent of physician shortages, an effort that initially failed to incorporate the contributions of PAs and NPs in the workforce. Although current projection models include the contributions of PAs and NPs, the substitution ratios used are notably low. Specifically, PA and NP productivity effort was set roughly at one-quarter to one-half that of the physician. PAs and NPs make up a substantial contingent within the US healthcare workforce and should be included fully in future workforce projection estimates. This article provides policy recommendations for the advancement of PA contributions to the delivery of medical care.

Department

Prevention and Community Health

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