PA Title Change: Frequently Asked Questions

PAEA is committed to keeping members informed on the issues that matter most. As a component of our commitment to ensure that programs, faculty, and students are provided with the resources necessary to navigate the recently-passed title change initiative, we’ve developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help our members better understand how the Title Change is unfolding.

General Questions

PAEA is committed to working with AAPA and other stakeholders to ensure that the branding of the profession appropriately reflects the care graduates of our programs provide to patients. The PAEA board will bring forward a position statement for adoption at the 2021 PAEA Educational Forum, to be voted on by the membership.

Graduates of programs already using the term “physician associate” are currently licensed to practice in their states as physician assistants.

You must use the title of the profession in effect at any given time as prescribed by your state’s licensure law. The process of title change will likely take many years before “physician assistant” is no longer used to describe the profession.

The title change and OTP are distinct initiatives that have both been approved by the AAPA House of Delegates. The purpose of the title change is to align the branding of the profession with the reality of on-the-ground clinical practice for PAs across the country. OTP seeks to eliminate burdensome administrative constraints under state laws which prevent PAs from practicing to the full extent of their education, training and experience.

Faculty Questions

The length of the title change process is anticipated to vary significantly among states as advocacy efforts are undertaken to adopt the title “physician associate” under state, as well as federal, practice laws and regulations. This process is anticipated to occur over a number of years and could take as long as ten (10) years or more to complete throughout the entire country.

Program name change processes vary between individual educational institutions as well as between public and private institutions. Stakeholders such as departmental leadership, college/institutional leadership, and Boards of Trustees and/or Regents may be involved depending upon the institution/state. From a policy and practice perspective, a profession name change requires action by each state legislature, which will involve a multi-year advocacy process.

Compensation packages are determined based upon a number of factors including practice setting, specialty, productivity, and local clinician supply and demand. The implications of title change on compensation are unknown at this time.

PA programs using physician associate terminology in their names have a track record of successfully obtaining and administering federal awards such as Primary Care Training and Enhancement grants. PAEA’s Government Relations team will continue to vigorously advocate for expanded access to federal funding opportunities for programs, faculty, and students, without regard to the professional title that the program is using.

Faculty should advise their students that the title change process is anticipated to be a lengthy advocacy endeavor taking place over a number of years with the pace of progress varying between states. Students should further be advised that, until necessary changes in state law are made, they should continue to use the term “physician assistant student” to describe themselves in both clinical and non-clinical settings.

The following suggested language explaining title change may be provided to students:

“I am a physician assistant student at X University. While the AAPA House of Delegates has voted to change the name of the PA profession to physician associate, a formal title change requires changes in state law that has not yet occurred.”

PAEA’s leadership and Government Relations team is in regular contact with AAPA to ensure information on title change efforts is shared in a manner that supports the long-term interests of programs, students, patients and the profession.

PAEA is committed to ensuring that long-standing efforts to advance the advocacy priorities identified in the Association’s strategic plan are not displaced or adversely impacted by title change.

Student Questions

It is not anticipated that title change will impact tuition in the absence of significant alteration to current state licensure requirements.

Title change is not predicted to impact the length of programs in the absence of significant changes to current state licensure requirements.

No. You must use the title of the profession prescribed by your state’s licensure law.

It is not anticipated that a title change will impact the required degree for the profession in the absence of significant changes to state licensure requirements.

Interprofessional training opportunities vary significantly between institutions based upon factors such as institutional PA program housing, local clinical education opportunities, etc. The impact of title change on interprofessional education is unknown at this time.

The timeline for PA program name changes is anticipated to vary significantly between states and institutions, and it is unlikely that students with an imminent graduation date will graduate from a newly named “physician associate” program. Consult your program’s leadership to discuss the anticipated timeline for your institution.

No. Title change does not inherently change state scope of practice laws.

Questions?

Please contact the PAEA Government Relations Team at tsmith@PAEAonline.org.