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Psych Congress  

Physician Assistants Within the Psychiatric Workforce

Authors  

Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed. D., PA-C-President/CEO, NCCPA; Kasey Puckett, MPH-Research Analyst, Research, NCCPA; Andrzej Kozikowski, Ph.D.-Director of Research, Research, NCCPA; Colette Jeffrey, MA-Senior Research Analyst, Research, NCCPA; Sheila Mauldin, MNM-VP of Research & Exam Programs, Research & Exam Programs, NCCPA

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Physician assistants (PAs) have historically played a key role in helping to alleviate physician shortages. Given the significant projected psychiatrist deficits to occur by 2024, it is critical to better understand the evolving role of PAs in psychiatric care. However, few studies have explored the role of PAs in mental healthcare. Drawing on the PA workforce data collected by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, we describe the demographic and practice characteristics of PAs in psychiatry. As of 2019, there were 1,684 PAs in psychiatry or 1.6% of the total certified PA workforce. The absolute number of PAs in psychiatry has increased by 128% since 2014. Of all PAs working in a secondary clinical position, 254 PAs, or 2.0%, are in psychiatry. The mean and median age of PAs working in this specialty is 43.2 and 41 years, respectively; 70.2% are female. Most (81.1%) are white, 5.9% are African American, and 5.2% are Asian; 6.7% identify as Hispanic. The median number of hours worked, and patients seen each week is 40 and 60, respectively. Over a third (35.7%) of PAs in psychiatry report their primary practice setting as office-based private practice followed by 21.8% behavioral/mental health facility and 18.2% hospital. A quarter (24.8%) of PAs in psychiatry participate in telemedicine, and only 7.8% plan to retire in the next five years. Given the projected shortage of psychiatrists, the utilization of PAs in psychiatric medicine may be an overlooked strategy for ensuring patients have access to quality mental healthcare.

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