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The Right Physician Assistant Schedule Helps Alleviate Staffing Challenges

Physician assistants have been part of the healthcare landscape since the 1970s. While roughly 25 percent of PAs work in primary care, physician assistants also work in a variety of specialties, including emergency medicine (12 percent), orthopedic surgery (11 percent), and hospital medicine (4 percent). Over half (54 percent) of licensed PAs work in office-based private practice and about one in ten work in hospitals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates rapid job growth for physician assistants in the coming decade, with an average of 12,200 new openings for projected each year and a decade-over-decade growth rate of 31 percent. Researchers forecasting the physician assistant workforce note that the profession’s growth is linked to two phenomena: an expansion of the aging population and a physician shortage fueled by a lack of federally-supported postgraduate training.

The third factor at play is that the profession’s pioneers are on the cusp of retirement. Researchers have found that slightly over half of physician assistants aged 60 and older plan to retire in the next five years. As physician assistants have historically filled physician gaps, the Association of American Medical Colleges underscores the potential problem in its finding that the U.S. faces a physician shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 by 2034. This information, along with findings that the healthcare field has lost 20 percent of its workforce since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic should concern both policymakers and healthcare administrators.

Physician Assistant Schedule: Challenges and Opportunities

A physician assistant who helps staff a clinic may work a traditional 40-hour week, but one who works in a hospital setting may have a very different schedule. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) found that 39 percent of PAs work on-call, and 10 percent work more than ten hours per week on call. Almost half of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery physician assistants report being on-call more than ten hours each week, as do one in five general surgery PAs. Fully 65 percent of geriatrics PAs and 63 percent of neurosurgery PAs work on-call.

When on-call schedules are constructed using spreadsheets or other manual methods, a number of issues can arise. Changes to the physician assistant schedule lead to obsolescence, and updated schedules may not be disseminated in a timely manner. In addition, contact preferences may not be readily available. As a result, the wrong physician assistant may be called or the right on-call PA may be called at the wrong number. The frustrations associated with these phenomena contribute to physician assistant burnout.

The NCCPA reported that 26 percent of physician assistants report one or more symptoms of burnout. PAs in some specialties report more burnout than others. In geriatrics, for example, 29 percent of PAs report burnout symptoms and 11 percent said they were planning to retire in the next five years. Geriatrics PAs are those who work the greatest number of on-call hours.

Adopting physician assistant schedule software is a straightforward way to alleviate one of the contributing factors to burnout. A real-time, accessible schedule is the single source of truth that PAs can rely on and that call centers can use to contact the right physician assistant at the right time.

Across the U.S., clinics and hospitals rely on physician assistants, yet it is increasingly difficult to hire and retain PAs. While there isn’t a single solution for PA staffing shortages, easy-to-implement, reliable physician assistant schedule software is a good first step.

MDsyncNET’s cloud-based physician assistant schedule software delivers four advantages: low set-up fees, simple to learn, a single source of truth, and painless scheduling swaps. Call 888-506-5061 to see how MDsyncNET can help you integrate scheduling software into your facility.

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