PAs Are Rebranding & Guess Who’s Opposed to It

The AAPA House of Delegates recently voted to change the name of the PA profession to “physician associate”, however, not everyone is thrilled by the new name.

On May 24th, the AAPA House of Delegates voted to adopt the name “physician associate” as the official title for the PA profession, an effort several years in the making.

This is, undoubtedly, a victory for the profession, which, for years, has sought a way to step out from behind the physician’s shadow. Assistant no more—and certainly not the oft-used misnomer of “physician’s assistant.” They are now associates. Or, they will be soon, anyway.

While the resolution has passed, it will still be several years (and about $21.6 million worth of spend) before the term is put to use by the professionals themselves, or otherwise, with legislative and regulatory changes needing to first be made to incorporate the new title.

However, not everyone is celebrating the change.

Physician organizations and associations are, almost predictably, not supportive of the rebrand.

“AAPA’s effort to change the title of physician assistants to rebrand their profession will undoubtedly confuse patients and is clearly an attempt to advance their pursuit toward independent practice,” Susan R. Bailey, MD, President of the American Medical Association, said in a June 2nd statement. “Given the existing difficulty many patients experience in identifying who is or is not a physician, it is important to provide patients with more transparency and clarity in who is providing their care, not more confusion.”

The AMA statement also suggested the title change may not be legal, implying it goes against truth in advertising laws.

Other physician groups echoed the AMA statement’s sentiments, with the American Osteopathic Association saying in their own statement that their association, “calls for truth in advertising, intellectual honesty, and transparency with the use of professional designations of non-physician clinicians in service of the public interest.”

The AOA statement went on to say, “[W]e recognize the struggle of achieving professional parity (i.e. scope of practice, prescribing and compensation) between APRNs and PAs. However, efforts to seek parity among non-physician clinicians must not be at the expense of the truth in advertising and clarity of roles in our healthcare system.”

The AAPA responded to the criticisms via a letter sent to several national medical organizations and published to their website on June 4th, which read, in part, “We respect our relationship with your organization and the healthcare team members you represent, and we believe that our common interest — to best serve the needs of patients — unites us and presents collaborative opportunities to strengthen the fabric of America’s healthcare system.”

The AAPA letter concludes with, “While our title has changed, our mission has not — to transform health through patient-centered, team-based medical practice. We look forward to our continued work together.”

How do you feel about the name change and/or the opposition to it? Tell us in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

8 thoughts on “PAs Are Rebranding & Guess Who’s Opposed to It”

  1. As an NP for 22 years I do understand there are some differences in education, i.e nursing model vs medical model. I don’t mind a change in the name as long as the people we care for understand what we are. Despite my name tag I am still called doctor sometimes, I always correct them. Brochures about NP’s are available. The same can go for PA’s in the right setting. I worked in a very busy urgent care with 3 providers per shift. Most were PA’s and NP’s. We all did pretty much the same thing in the spectrum of care and learned from each other. There were often no MD’s around the practice site to “assist”. It was an autonomous provision of care. There may be some confusion at first regarding the new designation but most patients come around and understand. In regards to initials, NP, FNP, PNP,ANP, APRN, ENP, etc are often confusing on a name tag until explained. PA remains the same, at least.

  2. It is sad and disappointing to see a medical professional ( BC ) not understand our perspective. The PA community /profession has been mischaracterized by many informational media outlets. Many of these so called authors have misled the general public, hospital administrators, the physician community and countless other stakeholders because they do not have accurate information nor do they know our scope of practice, nor they bother to verify their facts. So is easy to see this perpetual misunderstanding continue and reign unchecked. How do I know? Simple, I have been a NCCPA Certified surgical PA myself for the past 34 years for which I have seen/read and collected many of these and nearly all of them were written by nonPA folks…go figure!

  3. Physician Assistants were born out of the military.. We work as Flight Surgeons in the Air Force. We don’t “assist” anyone during combat…we practice solo. Ask any Iraq PA veteran. We don’t spend endless time “educating” patients. We get the job done. Doesn’t matter what our title is. Patients are not ” confused” with the name of a medical professional who saves their life or limb.

  4. Couldn’t disagree more with the comment above. As an NP, the new title will be very confusing and I stand with the AMA in their objection. PA’s assist physicians and NP’s are educated for autonomous practice. Furthermore, stop using the term midlevel provider, obviously you don’t know a thing about the NP profession!

    1. BC – This is absolutely false and why we need the name change! We do not “assist physicians” – we are here to diagnose, treat, educate and establish relationships with our patients the same as NPs do. Our original title was physician associate until the AMA pushed for a change to physician assistant.

  5. I am a nurse practitioner and, as with physician assistants, physicians and their groups historically strive to maintain or obtain control of other practitioners. Patients can decide to whom they would like to trust their health. Having MD or DO after a person’s name does not guarantee good care, especially in Primary Care. Regardless of a person’s basic education , it is incumbent upon any provider to continue to pursue current evidence-based knowledge. There are many “midlevel providers” who give excellent care regardless of their title. The assertion that the change in title would be confusing is without merit. The talking point relative to truth in advertising is absurd. There is already confusion about the term “physician assistant” as many people confuse that with medical assistant. In my experience, objections to title upgrades or practice expansion is merely an act of insecure need for control.

Comments are closed.