Leadership and representation are becoming more important among physician assistants (PAs) as the profession and demand for PAs grow. Employers might think they can foster PA leadership by covering professional development fees and memberships as an employee benefit.
Employer-covered professional development benefits don’t appear to be associated with PAs’ self-perceived leadership potential, committee involvement or career satisfaction, according to research published in February in the Journal of the American Academy of PAs.
PAs report high job satisfaction whether employers cover their professional development or not.
That doesn’t mean employers should stop offering PAs professional development benefits. Rather they should focus on a more rounded approach to encouraging leadership development among their PAs, says study author Janet Furman M.M.S., PA-C, D.F.A.A.P.A., director of Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Competency and Education and an assistant professor and faculty at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
“I’ve found in my research that job satisfaction is high for our profession. Because of that, it might be easy to say let’s not provide too many continuing medical education (CME) benefits or too many financial benefits. But I think that doing so can increase satisfaction even further and also help your [PAs] to become a very valuable part of practice—providers who can contribute to the mission, vision and goals of their institution and help lead it into the future,” Ms. Furman says.
About the study
Researchers retrospectively analyzed 3,128 participants’ responses from the 2015 American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) National Survey and 2016 AAPA Salary Survey.\
A significant finding was that an increase in the number of self-perceived leadership attributes among PAs correlated positively with PA satisfaction. The authors suggest employees who see their work and actions as meaningful and influencing change results in psychological empowerment, which can translate to job satisfaction.
“We need to be comfortable in leadership situations because moving forward the goal should be for every PA to practice to the top of their license, and we need leaders to move us to that point.”
— Janet Furman M.M.S., PA-C, D.F.A.A.P.A., Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
About 73% of PAs surveyed stated they weren’t members of any committees but those that were members of committees felt they had more ability to lead, according to Ms. Furman.
The authors suggest intrinsic rewards might have a greater positive impact on career satisfaction than only extrinsic benefits. For example, providing PAs with opportunities to learn about leadership and become leaders is important, regardless of whether PA participation in those programs is paid for by employers.
“Just because you don’t have a certain amount of CME dollars, I think the potential to at least attend a CME and to learn and gain knowledge intrinsically is something that will always make someone feel more accomplished and maybe have greater perceived leadership skills,” Ms. Furman says.
In general, the study revealed a lack of leadership-specific data on PAs and the need to expand on questions about leadership in future surveys, according to Ms. Furman.
For example, researchers need to drill down to find out why PAs aren’t engaging in committee involvement. Is it because of their clinical responsibilities or that they’re not offered the opportunities? Is committee involvement expected or voluntary in cases where PAs are involved? And what type of involvement is it? Is it interdisciplinary? Is it a committee leadership role?
The need for leadership in the PA profession spans all settings—from acute care to community-based practice. And the leadership roles that PAs assume include not only institutional leadership but also state and national leadership.
“I certainly think that in the community, helping [PAs] to excel as leaders is important as the demand for PAs continues to grow,” Ms. Furman says. “We need to be comfortable in leadership situations because moving forward the goal should be for every PA to practice to the top of their license, and we need leaders to move us to that point.”