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The data demonstrates the growing role PAs play in the healthcare field, including clinics

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WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — The release of the “2010 Census Report and Salary Report,” which indicated that the number of practicing physician assistants has tripled in the past 10 years is important to note, especially as the convenient care clinic model continues to expand.

(THE NEWS: Study: Physician assistant workforce reaches record high. For the full story, click here)

Retail-based clinics undoubtedly are on the growth path, not only with regard to the scope of services but also the number of clinics. As the model continues to expand — and does so more rapidly — it is likely that clinics may need to rely more on physician assistants to assist nurse practitioners in serving patients.

This is especially evident when you also consider the short of primary care providers and the influx of some 30 million uninsured gaining healthcare coverage under healthcare reform. The need for alternative sites of care, such as retail-based health clinics, is on the rise.

The number of practicing physician assistants reached 83,466 in 2010, a 100% increase over the last 10 years, according to the census.

Not all clinic operators employ physician assistants in all clinic locations, largely because of state regulations that vary state to state. However, those clinics that do employ both nurse practitioners and physician assistants undoubtedly have reaped the benefits.

Physician assistants, who are trained in a medical model versus a nursing model, are hailed by clinic operators as being terrific providers who work collaboratively with nurse practitioners. In addition, the two providers often learn a great deal from each other given their different educational background and philosophies, industry sources have told Drug Store News.

The bottom line is perhaps best summed up by Robert Wooten, president of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, who said: “The PA profession is growing rapidly, and it is key to expanding access to quality health care for millions of Americans.”

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