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Pediatric Physician Assistants: Distribution and Scope of Practice

Freed GL, Dunham KM, Moote MJ, Lamarand KE; American Board of Pediatrics Research Advisory Committee.
Pub Med #: 

Physician assistants (PAs) are licensed to practice with physician supervision. PAs do not specialize or subspecialize as part of their formal standard training; consequently, their license is not limited to a specific specialty. As such, PAs can, and do, change their practice settings at will. Some researchers have projected plans for the future use of the pediatric PA workforce. However, the information on which those projections have been based is limited.

To provide information regarding the current status of pediatric PAs and to inform future workforce deliberations, we studied their current distribution and scope of practice.

Data from the American Association of Physician Assistants and the US Census Bureau were used to map the per-capita national distribution of pediatric PAs. We conducted a mail survey of a random sample of 350 PAs working in general pediatrics and 300 working in pediatric subspecialties.

Most states have <50 pediatric PAs, and there is significant variation in their distribution across the nation. The overall survey response rate was 83.5%; 82% (n = 359) were female. More than half of the respondents (57% [n = 247]) reported that they currently are working in pediatric primary care, mostly in private-practice settings.

PAs can, and do, play an important role in the care of children in the United States. However, the impact of that role is limited by the relative scarcity of PAs currently engaged in pediatric practice.