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Demand for Physician Assistants Intensifies

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 10, 2014

The rise in demand for PA's can be attributed to growing interest from large integrated health systems, retail clinics, health centers, and concierge physician practices, says one healthcare recruiter.

There is no corner of the healthcare job market that is hotter now than the search for physician assistants.

"PA searches are up 127% year-over-year in the numbers we do, which is insane. You just don't see that spikes like that," says Travis Singleton, senior vice president at healthcare recruiters Merritt Hawkins. "We are not quite at a feeding frenzy yet, but we are getting there."

And that demand is transitioning to reflect the broader transitions in healthcare delivery. Singleton says about 17% of Merritt Hawkins' PA searches are for rural areas and mostly in primary care, but that the demand for PAs in more-urban settings is intensifying.

"We attribute that to the alternative delivery sites that are now using PAs," he says. "It used to be the one- or two-doctor clinics which certainly still use PAs. Now, large integrated health systems are hiring them in mass numbers, as are retail clinics like CVS and Walgreens, federally qualified health centers, and concierge doctors."

"Certainly Walgreens and CVS and Walmart are a big part of that," he said, "because they are primary care givers. But even payers recognize the different services that PAs or nurse practitioners can bill for and the more that health centers see that, even if it is under MD supervision, the more they are going to put them on staff."

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