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) may help fill the current and projected workforce shortage in rheumatology, researchers reported at the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) 2017 conference.

The 2015 American College of Rheumatology Workforce Study sought to expand current knowledge of the rheumatology workforce, which includes PAs. The 2015 long-term projection for adult rheumatologists is a supply of 3455 by the year 2030, with a 2015 projected demand of 8184 by the year 2030. The 2015 long-term projection of pediatric rheumatologists is a supply of 231 by the year 2030, with a projected demand of 461 by the year 2030.

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The biggest current regional gap of adult rheumatologists is in the southeast US, with 60,087 adults per rheumatologist. The biggest regional gap for pediatric rheumatologists is in the southwest US, with 605,065 children per rheumatologist.

About 41% of adult rheumatologists are women, a rate that is expected to increase to 57% by 2030. In addition, 68% of pediatric rheumatologist are women, a rate that is expected to remain steady through 2030. Millennial physicians see 5% fewer patients, compared with their 2005 counterparts, and the number of visits per rheumatologist is expected to continue to decline. Half of rheumatologist plan to retire in the next 5 to 10 years, and most plan to reduce their patient load before retirement.

“The gap between supply and demand in the rheumatology workforce is expected to widen substantially by 2030,” stated B.J. Smith, PA-C, from the Florida State University College of Medicine School of PA Practice, and colleagues. “PAs have been identified as one potential solution [as the] value of PAs in medical practice has been documented.

“Opportunity exists to further document the value of PAs in rheumatology practice,” the authors commented. “Additional recruitment and training strategies should be developed to increase the number of adult and pediatric rheumatology PAs.”

Other potential options to address the rheumatology workforce shortage include mechanisms to increase training positions for adult and pediatric rheumatology fellows, the use of telemedicine, and optimizing practice efficiency.

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


  1. Smith BJ, Bolstser MB, Ditmyer M, Monrad S, Lewis K, Battafarano DF. Minding the gap: an opportunity for physician assistants to affect the rheumatology workforce shortage. Presented at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2017 conference; May 15-19, 2017; Las Vegas.