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 — The majority of physician assistant (PA) students and practicing PAs did not feel that their PA program adequately trained them to screen for opioid abuse, according to data presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) 2017 conference.

B. Pohler, MPH, PA-S, and M. Nowak, MPAS, PA-C, FAASPA, with the South College Physician Assistant Program in Knoxville, Tennessee, conducted their study to investigate whether PAs feel adequately trained regarding pain evaluation and management. The study also sought to determine how comfortable PAs are with utilizing a clinical guideline for prescribing opioids and a screening tool for opioid abuse.

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The study included 402 PA providers and 400 PA students who completed a 10-question survey with a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree; 5=strongly agree).

When the respondents were asked how well they felt their PA program trained them to screen for opioid abuse, the average response for students was 2.89 and the average response for prescribing PAs was 2.65 (P≤.05). When respondents were asked about their perception of how adequate their training was for pain evaluation and management, the average response for students was 3.20 compared with 2.99 for practicing PAs (P≥.05).

In addition, when questioned on their confidence in using clinical practice guidelines, the average response was 3.08 among students and 3.38 among prescribing PAs (P≤.05). The average response regarding confidence in knowledge and training in the use of screening guidelines was 2.64 among students and 3.01 among practicing PAs (P≤.05).

“There is still a need for current PA curricula to include more educational training opportunities on opioid screening and prevention education, with additional emphasis on clinical practice guidelines and screening tools, to help better prepare students to combat the growing opioid epidemic,” the investigators concluded.

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


  1. Pohler B, Nowak M. Opioid screening and prevention education among physician assistant students and practitioners: A national survey. Presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2017 conference; May 15-19, 2017; Las Vegas.