Top practice areas for physician assistants include surgical subspecialties, family medicine and emergency medicine.
Typically, physician assistants can provide 70% to 80% of the services ordinarily offered by physicians, so they are a resource for more frequent and accessible treatment amid the current shortage of healthcare professionals, said Dawn Morton-Rias, president and CEO of the commission.
She said satisfaction surveys conducted by the group found patients are generally comfortable with physician assistants and the care they provide. Some patients even prefer to see physician assistants because their more consistent communication style and availability to answer questions makes it easier to build a rapport, Morton-Rias said.
The profession still has room to improve, particularly as it is less diverse than the communities being served, she said. More than 80% of physician assistants are white, and 70% are female. Another 6.2% identify as Asian and 3.3% identify as Black.
In Missouri, a state ranked 48 out of 51 for its number of physician assistants, the position has room to grow, said Paul Winter, immediate past president and legislative chair of the Missouri Academy of Physician Assistants. One issue is the introduction of newer professions, like the assistant physician role—which requires a different certification process but fulfills responsibilities similar to physician assistants. Missouri was the first state to create and license the assistant physician role.