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.