How satisfied are Physician Assistants (PAs) with their chosen career and work-life balance? In the 2022 Medscape Physician Assistant Career Satisfaction Report, approximately 9 out of 10 said they were happy to have become PAs. it can therefore be assumed that satisfaction is quite high.
But comments from survey respondents and report readers show that the reality is more nuanced.
Making a difference in the lives of patients was the aspect of PA work most often chosen as rewarding.
“I love helping patients get better and helping them take care of themselves,” wrote one respondent. Another enjoys “using the medical training and relationship skills I’ve honed over the years.”
Physician assistants are also pleased with the indirect impact they have on patients by training others. One respondent takes pleasure in “ensuring that the next generation of providers are competent and compassionate”. Another is happy to be “a source of evidence-based medical information for students, patients, friends and family.”
But do PAs feel respected and understood?
Several respondents reported having “great relationships with their colleagues” and feeling respected and appreciated. But these benefits are not universal.
Not all APs appreciated this kind of respect. In the Medscape survey, disrespect from doctors, managers, peers or colleagues was chosen fourth most often as an undesirable aspect of work. And some respondents reported a lack of gratitude from patients or their families.
A perceived lack of understanding of what a PA does is a sore point for some respondents and readers. The same is true for the observed gap between PAs and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) in respect and compensation.
“We have more schooling than IPs, but less independence and recognition,” one AP wrote. Another described “being seen as inferior to IPs in terms of pay, skills, abilities, respect, opportunity and support.”
Yet a recent study projected that the PA workforce is likely to grow 35% by 2025. And PAs can now bill Medicare directly for their services, a change favored by nearly 79% of respondents in the report. Medscape. With these changes, greater respect from colleagues and patients may follow.
Impact of COVID-19 on PAs
A possible silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that PA’s scope of practice has temporarily expanded to help manage the onslaught of patients. Almost all respondents to the Medscape report are in favor of making these extensions permanent.
But for the most part, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the professional lives of PAs, and the lamentations are showing in their comments.
A respondent no longer practices in his specialty, for example. Others described harder and longer working hours due to pandemic-related staffing shortages, inability to provide optimal patient care in overcrowded facilities, and the management of COVID-19 testing.
Overcharged and underpaid
Many respondents celebrated the benefits of being a physician assistant, including receiving adequate or better than adequate compensation and having a flexible schedule. “I have a great job, great pay and the ability to work part-time,” one wrote enthusiastically. Another described the most rewarding part of her job as “the flexibility, the time spent with my family and the ability to maintain a good work-life balance”.
However, many other PAs reported feeling overworked in general (and the pandemic has only made matters worse). “The workload is too heavy for one person: preparing surgical patients, obtaining prior authorizations and responding to patient messages,” one complained. Another proposes “a 55-60 hour work week with very few breaks”. Others are struggling with night shifts or “sacrificing my personal and family life to my work”.
And some physician assistants feel underpaid for all that extra work. “I don’t have overtime…no bonuses,” complained one. Another described not being paid for on-call hours.
Paperwork can be tedious
Many respondents and commentators described the volume of documentation (both paper and electronic health records) they manage. They described these types of administrative tasks as adding to an already overwhelming workload and creating “competing priorities.”
However, they admitted that the paperwork was necessary to maintain board certification and to avoid potential malpractice lawsuits. Possible litigation has come up like a bogeyman in the comments time and time again. “I’m afraid of being sued,” wrote one PA.
Although some PAs were happy to have “plenty of time” to spend with each patient, 15% of female PAs and 10% of male PAs felt that they did not have enough time to spend with each patient. devote to each patient, and one of them also lamented the “inability to ensure adequate follow-up of patients. »
Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW, is a freelance writer with a consulting firm in Teaneck, NJ. She is a regular contributor to numerous medical publications, including Medscape and WebMD, and is the author of several consumer health books as well as Behind the Burqa: Our Lives in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom (the memoirs of two brave Afghan sisters who told her their story).
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