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Physician Assistant Compensation Increased Almost 3% in 2018

Median annual physician assistant compensation reached $105,000 in 2018, with hospital-employed providers reporting salaries on the higher end, a new survey revealed.

Physician assistant compensation

Source: Thinkstock

By Jacqueline LaPointe

- Median annual physician assistant compensation was $105,000 in 2018, representing a 2.9 percent boost compared to the previous year, a new American Academy of PAs (AAPA) survey found.

Meanwhile, the 2018 AAPA Salary Survey of over 9,000 physician assistants found the median hourly wage remained around $60 for the 17.2 percent of physician assistants who received an hourly wage.

About 78.7 percent of physician assistants were compensated via an annual salary, while approximately 4 percent received pay based on productivity.

“PAs are critical members of a patient’s care team who practice in all medical settings and specialties across the country,” said Jonathan Sobel, PA-C, MBA, DFAAPA, FAPACVS, President and Chair of the AAPA Board of Directors. “This valuable resource will help PAs plan for the future and navigate the ever-changing healthcare job market.”

Graph shows that most physician assistants earn an annual salary versus an hourly age.

Source: AAPA

A recent change in the “ever-changing healthcare job market” is the trend toward hospital employment. The AAPA survey showed that physicians are not the only providers increasingly seeking employment by hospitals and other large provider organizations.

READ MORE: How Adding Physician Assistants Improves Hospital Revenue Cycle

More than one-third of physician assistants (34.9 percent) were employed by a hospital in 2018, following physician practices as the largest employer of the medical professional (46.1 percent).

Of the hospital-employed physician assistants, almost one-half of the medical professionals (46.4 percent) reported working at an academic medical center, while 38.8 percent worked at community non-profit hospitals, and almost 15 percent worked at another hospital type.

Like physicians, physician assistants may be leaning toward hospital employment for the added benefits. The AAPA survey showed that hospital physician assistants reported higher salaries, more leadership opportunities, and better benefits compared to their peers in physician practices.

Hospital-employed physician assistants had a base salary of $107,000 in 2018, while physician assistants employed by physician practices had a base salary of $101,000.

Chart shows physician assistant compensation by hospital setting.

Source: AAPA

Physician assistants working in the hospital setting and getting paid based on a productivity model also reported higher compensation. The hospital-employed providers received $160,000 versus $150,000 for physician assistants working in physician practices.

READ MORE: Healthcare Revenue Higher for Practices Employing More NPs, PAs

Researchers noted that the hourly wage for physician assistants in both settings was similar, remaining around $60 per hour.

Hospital-employed physician assistants were also more likely to report a career ladder at their organization (27.47 percent versus 11 percent), hold formal leadership positions in their organization (57.5 percent versus 28.2 percent), and complete formal leadership training (12.6 percent versus 8.7 percent) compared to their peers in physician practices.

On average, hospital-employed physician assistants also reported more paid time off than their counterparts in physician practices. They received 20 days of general paid time off (versus 17.8 days), 8.4 sick days (versus 5 days), and 16 vacation days (versus 15 days).

While physician assistants in the hospital setting saw additional perks, so did PAs in states with fewer scope of practice barriers, the survey showed.

Physician assistants who received higher salaries tended to reside in states that have implemented at least three of the six Key Elements defined by the AAPA. The Key Elements are:

  • Using “licensure” as the regulatory term (implemented by 50 states and Washington DC)
  • Allowing full prescriptive authority to be determined at the practice level (43 states and Washington DC)
  • Implementing adaptable collaboration requirements (30 states and Washington DC)
  • Determining cosignatory requirements at the practice level (31 states and Washington DC)
  • Permitting the number of physician assistants a physician can work with to be determined at the practice level (14 states)

READ MORE: Preparing the Healthcare Revenue Cycle for Value-Based Care

Additionally, physician assistants earned more when state laws permitted scope of practice to be determined at the practice level and physician assistants to practice without a physician on site, as well as state laws that required no physician cosignature on physician assistant charts.

Graph shows physician compensation is higher in states that allow broader scope of practice.

Source: AAPA

Physician assistant compensation is likely to continue growing in the current, competitive healthcare job market, the evidence indicates.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, AAPA researchers found that mean wage for physician assistants grew 2.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, outpacing the wage growth rate of physicians. The mean wage for physicians and surgeons only increased 2.2 percent during the same period.

Physician assistant compensation growth increased at a comparable rate to the growth of nurse practitioner compensation, the data comparison revealed. The mean wage for nurse practitioners grew 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Healthcare organizations of all sizes are increasingly relying on physician assistants and nurse practitioners to handle the responsibilities of value-based care and population health management during the physician shortage.

With demand for more non-physician providers up, so is their compensation.

A recent Practice Match survey found nurse practitioner compensation was also higher compared to last year. Nurse practitioners reported an average salary of $113,900 in 2018, an increase of 6.6 percent compared to the previous year.

“Advanced practice clinicians such as NPs and PAs continue to be in extremely high demand among healthcare employers, especially in light of ongoing physician shortages,” stated Mike York, CEO of PracticeMatch. “Our annual survey shows that they are enjoying increased salary levels and job satisfaction rates that confirm how highly valued their clinical services are in a variety of medical settings, including hospitals and private groups across the country.”

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are so highly valued that healthcare organizations are willing to pay them more to practice at their organization. One way to increase their compensation and attract high-quality candidate is through signing bonuses, the PracticeMatch survey found.

The proportion of advanced practice clinicians receiving a signing bonus is up to 12 percent, and the average bonus paid was $7,200.

The non-physician provider compensation trends point to more increases in pay in the near future as healthcare organizations transition to a value-based care and population-health focused environment all while facing a physician shortage.

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