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The Newly Certified Class of PAs is the Most Diverse the Profession Has Seen

If you need more proof that the PA profession is evolving, look no further than the most recently certified group of physician assistants.

If you need more proof that the PA profession is evolving, look no further than the most recently certified group of physician assistants.

According to a report from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) published earlier this month, last year’s cohort of 9,287 people is the most diverse — from age to gender to ethnicity — to earn the title PA-C. And if diversity wasn’t enough, this group is 26.5% bigger than 2013’s class.

Most notably, 2018’s certified PAs are:

  • Young: 72.5% are under 30 years old. This is the youngest group yet.
  • Racially diverse: 14.4% identify as non-white, and 7.6% are of Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin.
  • Heavily female: 73.9% identify as women.
  • Culturally diverse: About one-fifth say they can communicate with patients in a language other than English.
  • Well-compensated: Their median salary is $95,000 a year.

These stats are encouraging, especially since a lack of diversity among PAs has been a roadblock to the profession’s growth. We chatted with NCCPA president Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, PA-C, to glean some additional insight into why they matter.

“In the early days, PAs were medical corpsmen,” Dr. Morton-Rias recalls. “Now, women and young people look at this profession as a viable option.”

She emphasizes that the youth of the newest group is especially exciting.

“This population has tremendous reach not only in the one-to-one care that they provide but through their social and technological reach,” Dr. Morton-Rias explains. “We’re seeing a continued increase in the social media presence of the profession. It’s dispelling myths regarding the title, what PAs can do, and how PAs work across all disciplines.”

The ethnic diversity component, she notes, that the PA profession has been striving towards for a long time.

“One of the hallmarks of this profession is that we value diverse perspectives,” Dr. Morton-Rias says. “When patients see a provider that reflects their gender or cultural background, it helps them communicate more freely and improves early access and quality of care.”

And, of course, the steady increase in size is meaningful because it increases access to care. “PAs are willing to go to underserved communities,” she adds.

Should more experienced PAs be intimidated by this remarkable group? Not, Dr. Morton-Rias stresses.

“We should be encouraged by the newly certified,” she says. “These young PAs are hitting the ground running and ready to contribute …The youth of this cohort bodes well for the longevity and impact of this profession.”

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