The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor’s conference coverage from the 2017 American Academy of Physician Assistants’ meeting in Las Vegas. Our staff will be reporting live on original research, case studies, and professional outreach and advocacy news from leading PAs in many specialty areas. Check back for the latest news from AAPA 2017. 

LAS VEGAS — Physician assistants (PAs) are using their flexibility to make career changes and meet changing healthcare needs, according to data presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) 2017 conference.

Tim McCall, PhD, a research analyst with AAPA, and colleagues hypothesized that PAs who made a career change in 2015 would report higher levels of satisfaction with their career and equal or lower levels of life stress, compared with PAs who had not made a change.

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The researchers collected data from the 2016 AAPA Salary Survey and analyzed characteristics of PAs who experienced career changes in 2015 regarding specialty, setting, employer, and role changes by using analysis of variance, descriptive, and column proportion statistics.

Results showed that 23.3% changed jobs because “they want to work in a higher paying specialty”; 15% were “ready for a change”; 14.3% “want a better work−life balance”; 11.4% were “moving”; and 10.7% “always intended to change specialties after getting a broad knowledge based in primary care.”

“More PAs who made a change were dissatisfied with their employer,” the researchers commented. “More PAs who made a change were unlikely to recommend their employer to others.”

Among PAs who changed jobs, 5.5% changed their specialty, 5.6% changed their setting, 5.3% changed their role, and 11.0% changed their employer.

In addition, PAs who changed jobs had less experience (9 years vs 10.6 years, respectively) and were younger (38.6 years vs 39.9 years, respectively) than PAs who did not change jobs.

“PAs were taking advantage of flexibility offered by their profession,” stated Dr McCall’s group. “Future research should focus on motivators of change, as well as longer-term outcomes of specialty change, including lifetime income, job satisfaction, and patient experience.

“PAs are uniquely positioned to meet changing healthcare needs, with the ability to move to specialties and settings as gaps arise,” the researchers concluded. “Employers should avail themselves of the PA profession to fulfill healthcare workforce needs.”

AAPA 2017 continues through Friday, May 19th. Visit for more information.


  1. McCall T, Melton ND, Smith N. PA use of flexibility in specialty, role, employer, and setting choice. Presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2017 conference; May 15-19, 2017; Las Vegas.