Physician assistants, nurse practitioners cite obstacles to achieving academic rank

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Strategies needed to make academic rank more attainable for physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Despite a majority of PA survey respondents not holding academic rank, 74% said they believed it is important.
Despite a majority of PA survey respondents not holding academic rank, 74% said they believed it is important.

SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly three-quarters of all physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are interested in achieving academic rank, but a majority report multiple barriers toward obtaining that goal, researchers reported at the the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2015 meeting.

Patricia Mackey, FNP-BC, BC-ACM, CDE, and colleagues designed and administered a questionnaire to all PAs and NPs employed at the three campuses of the Mayo Clinic. Survey responders were inquired about their current PA and NP academic rank, whether rank was desired, and about their perceived attitudes and barriers toward achieving an academic appointment.

A total of 403 questionnaires were returned. Seventy percent of all respondents indicated that they did not hold any academic rank. Among those who did have academic rank, 22% were an instructor, 7% were an assistant professor, and 1% were an associate professor. No respondents held the rank of professor.

Of PAs and NPs without academic rank, 74% believed that achieving academic rank was important to them. “Lack of time” (51%) and “don't understand process” (48%) were the two most frequently reported barriers preventing the achievement of academic rank. 

In addition, other barriers cited were “not emphasized” by 37% of responders without academic rank and “lack of mentorship” by 36% of responders without rank. Sixty-one percent of respondents reported having two or more barriers in the way of obtaining academic rank.

“Implementing strategies to improve academic recognition through appointment and advancement need to be developed and tested for their impact on the PA and NP careers,” stated Mackey.


  1. Mackey P. "Perceived Attitudes and Barriers Towards Achieving Academic Rank Among Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants." Presented at: AAPA 2015. May 23-27, 2015. San Francisco, California.
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