"It's really a seller's market for physician assistants right now," says Dr. Brad Smith, Medical Director at Knox Community Hospital Urgent Care Center, who used to work in a family medicine practice and is hiring PAs at his urgent care center.
He sees the growth of the urgent care business as a reaction to the primary care shortage and access issues. He sees urgent care as a helpful transition for primary care, because at his center they actively try to coordinate with their patients' primary care physician to follow up on patients and collaborate around the patient's care.
But even at the urgent care center, to help cover patient volumes they staff advanced practitioners to fill the gaps between their full time physicians' shifts. They are open to hiring recent graduates and PAs with many different backgrounds of experience.
"There's a shortage of PAs out there, and they are hard to find. So sometimes you have to deal with the hand you're given, and we're very open to and excited to train a new physician assistant, because they are likely to stick around if you establish that foundation for them."
Smith says any of the physician assistants he's worked with would stack up easily with their knowledge when compared with a physician. "A middle-tier trained physician who has trained for ten years would probably have the equivalent knowledge base of a top-tier trained physician who has recently graduated," says Smith. "I think you could apply that to comparing physician assistants and physicians as well."