PA Workforce – How Far We Have Come – and Where Are We Going?

Lisa P. Shock, MHS, PA-C

President/CEO Utilization Solutions in Healthcare, Inc.

CompHealth Consultant


National PA Week is approaching – October 6-12, 2011.  Some of you may know that the original PA Day was Oct 6 – and that coincided with Dr. Eugene Stead’s birthday.  Dr. Stead, as our founding father, was a local legend at Duke Medical Center and those of us fortunate to have known him remember his great stories and his amazing vision for our profession.

A recent article in HealthLeaders Media comments on the Physician Assistant workforce experiencing a 100% increase in the last 10 years.   I am often fond of saying that PAs are like type O blood – we can practice in every specialty and in every medical practice setting.  It is not surprising that practices and health care systems are utilizing us more to deliver high quality, cost effective medical care.

One of the largest trends I have seen over my career is the change in demographics.  According to the AAPA, female PAs outnumber male PAs by nearly 20,000 and this is evidenced in the student applicant pool as well.  Factors including lifestyle, flexibility, and family planning have all contributed to this shift.

My prediction is that our profession will continue with another 100% doubling in the next 10 years.  Health reform initiatives will increase the number of patients that need care.  The only way the US healthcare system can absorb the huge changes we have been talking about is through more efficient utilization of all resources – and when it comes to the actual delivery of care by providers it will have to be through more efficient teams. The growth in the number and size of PA training programs has been substantial, with more than 5,300 graduates projected in 2010, and although the number of PAs in clinical practice could reach 110,000 by 2015, this remains less than one PA for every five medical and surgical specialists.

In my 12 years of practice, I remain young compared to some of my colleagues, but feel old when I am training my students and I am not as technologically savvy or as connected on Facebook.  In order for us to sustain our growth, we need to continue to mentor those who come after us and remember our commitment to high quality patient care.



Lisa P. Shock, MHS, PA-C, CompHealth consultant, is a seasoned PA who is a proud alumna of the Duke PA Program. She enjoys part time clinical primary care practice and is the President and CEO of Utilization Solutions in Healthcare – a specialty consultant company for physician practices and hospitals, offering a wide range of services to help implement and improve upon the utilization of PAs in the health care system. Contact her at

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