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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Profile of Colorado's Physician Assistant Workforce

Report on trends, practice characteristics, obstacles and policy issues related to physician assistants in Colorado - key findings from the American Academy of Physician Assistants' (AAPA) Census Survey.
Date last upated: June 1, 2009

CHI collaborated with the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) to produce a report using the AAPA Census Survey Data from 2005 and 2006. CHI analyzed the survey findings, conducted a literature review and synthesis and interviewed key informants to determine trends, practice characteristics, obstacles and policy issues related to PAs in Colorado.

In 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked PAs as one of the fastest growing occupations for the period covering 2006 to 2016. In 2007, the CDLE projected the number of PA positions to increase annually by 2.9 percent between 2006 and 2016 and estimated that there would be 1,766 PAs practicing in Colorado by 2016. During this timeframe, CDLE estimated that due to turnover, retirement and increased demand, Colorado will have 63 openings for PAs annually.

As an historic artifact, PAs typically have been a male dominated profession. However, this trend has changed over the past several decades as many women view the PA profession as an alternative to a nursing career. In fact, in Colorado, 69 percent of respondents to the AAPA survey were female, compared to 62 percent nationally.

Similar to physician practice patterns, PAs are increasingly practicing in specialties other than primary care. Half of Colorado’s PA survey respondents reported practicing in a primary care specialty including general internal medicine, family medicine and general pediatrics. Nationally, the percentage of survey respondents practicing primary care was only 36 percent.13 The other half of Colorado respondents practiced in other specialties such as dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology or emergency medicine or within a subspecialty of internal medicine or pediatrics.

A greater proportion of female PA respondents in Colorado practiced a primary care specialty compared to other specialties. The opposite was true for males. As shown in Graph 1 above, 74 percent of the Colorado respondents who practiced primary care were female and 26 percent were male. On the other hand, of those respondents who practiced in a specialty area, 64 percent were female and 36 percent were male.