There is a physician shortage in the US predicted to grow beyond 100,000 by 2030, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. As a result, the healthcare system is increasingly relying on physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) to fill the gaps. InCrowd’s microsurvey tool surveyed 75 nurse practitioners and 75 physician assistants to understand how they are responding to this new dynamic and how they see patients reacting.
Almost 20% of PAs and NPs noted some disrespect from colleagues and patients. A physician assistant from Colorado with 11 years in practice stated that she’s often forced “to prove myself/my qualifications because I am a PA”. A NP from Arizona with 7 years in practice commented that she struggles with being “treated like an hourly worker”. Even providers with lengthy professional experience reported unfairness in the workplace.
These issues may be the result of a lack of understanding of the capabilities and responsibilities required in these professions:
- 67% of PAs and NPs said that they have to explain their responsibilities to patients occasionally or often, an issue more common amongst nurse practitioners.
- 58% would like their patients to know that they are educated and qualified to care for them.
- 25% say they think of patients view NPs and PAs as physician-hopefuls or physicians-in-training, an inaccuracy more frequently applied to physician assistants.
“I want patients to know I have dedicated my professional life to helping them feel better. I have been in my specialty longer than some of the physicians in my practice and am extremely knowledgeable. They will receive equal care to that of a physician in my practice.” –Physician Assistant, AZ, 12 YIP
Almost 80% of physician assistants and nurse practitioners agreed that the relationships they develop with their patients give them the greatest professional satisfaction. Verbatim reports further emphasized this point, ”I get the most satisfaction out of seeing patients begin to take better care of themselves after having seen me,” — Nurse Practitioner, MA, 18 years in practice. Reversing patient misconceptions may further promote this sense of fulfillment, and at the same time has meaningful implications for patient care. Several PAs and NPs indicated that patient misunderstandings around their roles and functions might be doing patients’ a disservice. For example, respondents stated they viewed their professions as “more holistic,” with patients often getting more time with NPs and PAs than a regular physician. Inaccuracies about the education and work of PAs and NPs may prevent patients from pursuing these important advantages.
As the need for more quality healthcare providers increases, and as NP and PA professionals gain a more central and high-profile role on healthcare teams, patients−who might not yet realize what these roles are about−will soon learn just how vital they are to the system.