AUTHOR: Rachel A. Hamann
CONTRIBUTORS: Lindsey M. Huang, MA & Anthony A. Miller, MEd, PA-C
The Matriculating Student Survey (MSS) and the PA Program Faculty and Directors Survey are two of PAEA’s regular data collection efforts. The MSS, administered annually to first-year PA students in the month they enter their program, collects data on demographics; education; work experience; health and well-being factors; indebtedness; and future career preferences. The PA Program Faculty and Directors Survey is administered biannually and collects demographic, educational, professional, and compensation information from PA faculty, program directors, and medical directors. For the purpose of this report, medical directors were excluded from analysis due to the high variability in their roles within PA programs.
The focus of this report is to assess the diversity among PA first-year students and faculty by comparing their demographic characteristics and, in addition, comparing them to the United States population. The goal of this report is to gain a greater understanding of diversity in PA education and identify opportunities to address any shortcomings in the recruitment of PA students and faculty.
PA Faculty and Matriculants: A Comparison
Table 1 displays the gender distribution of PA faculty and matriculants. Both faculty and students have greater proportions of females than males (61.3% and 72.9%, respectively). When compared to the U.S. population, female PA matriculants and faculty members are overrepresented.1
The proportion of female first-year students has increased from nearly 60% in 1985 to just over 70% in 2013, though this trend appears to have stabilized.2 There is also an increasing proportion of the number of certified female PAs. In 1974, 16% of all certified PAs were female, compared to 67% in 2014.3 In 2013, 73% of recently certified PAs were female (i.e., certified for the first time).4 Considering the gender distribution trend among practicing PAs and students and its recent stabilization, it will be interesting to examine if this trend will be reflected among PA faculty.
More matriculants (6.2%) reported being Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish in origin than faculty (3.8%). This difference may be accounted for by the higher proportion of faculty who did not wish to report their ethnicity (see Table 2). Sixteen percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish in origin, highlighting the underrepresentation of this group among both PA faculty members and matriculants.1
Table 3 displays the ethnicity of faculty and matriculants by gender. A greater number of female matriculants reported being Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish than male matriculants. More female faculty members reported being Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish than male faculty members. There were higher proportions of matriculants who are Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish than faculty members. Again, the number of faculty members who did not wish to report their ethnicity may have affected this difference.
Greater than 80% of both PA faculty and matriculants are white (85.2% and 82.4%, respectively; see Table 4). Compared to faculty (1.8%, n = 15), a greater proportion of PA matriculants (8.1%, n = 405) reported they are Asian, but fewer were Black or African American (3.1%) than faculty (5.3%). When comparing the racial profiles of PA faculty and matriculants to the U.S. population, White faculty and students are overrepresented while Black or African American and multi-racial individuals are underrepresented. Although Asian matriculants are overrepresented in comparison to the national population, Asians are underrepresented among faculty members. In sum, the U.S. population is more diverse racially than both PA faculty and matriculant populations
There was little difference among faculty and matriculants’ race when examined by gender. Table 5 displays the results.
Table 6 reports PA faculty and matriculants’ age. The average PA faculty member is twenty years older than the average first-year student.
Both male matriculants and faculty were older than their female counterparts (see Table 7). There was a six-year difference between the average age of male faculty members (M = 50.7, SD = 11.07, n = 302) and female faculty members (M = 45.3, SD = 10.32, n = 504). Male matriculants reported an average age of 28.5 years (SD = 6.27, n = 1,310), which was three years older than female matriculants (M = 25.5, SD = 5.09, n = 3,570).
Conclusions and Limitations
Achieving diversity among PA faculty members and students is one of the key components of PAEA’s Strategic Plan. Most PA faculty and matriculants are female. When compared to the national population, both faculty and matriculants are less diverse, as both populations are overwhelmingly white and non-Hispanic. These findings may suggest a need for PA programs to assess their recruitment, admissions, and hiring practices and the impact of these practices on the profession’s diversity.
One limitation of the comparisons in this report is the difference between the MSS and PA Program and Faculty and Directors Survey instruments. Only characteristics that were collected the same way on the survey instruments were used to make comparisons between faculty and matriculants. Future survey instruments may be edited in order to create alignment between the survey tools to allow for more comparisons between the two groups, such as environment in which each spent a majority of their lives, civil status, and number of dependents. Another limitation is the response rates of the surveys. The 2014 MSS and the 2014 PA Program Faculty and Directors garnered response rates of 62% and 59%, respectively. Although these are satisfactory response rates, some characteristics of faculty and matriculants may have been under- or overrepresented due to non-respondents.
1United States Census Bureau. 2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_13_5YR_DP05&src=pt.
2 Physician Assistant Education Association (2014). Twenty-Ninth Annual Report of Physician Assistant Educational Programs in the United States, 2012-2013. http://bit.ly/1Nbpbp4.
3National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Inc. (2015, March). 2014 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants: An Annual Report of the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants. http://www.nccpa.net/uploads/docs/2014StatisticalProfileofCertifiedPhysicianAssistants-AnAnnualReportoftheNCCPA.pdf.
4National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, Inc. (2014, October). 2013 Statistical Profile of Recently Certified Physician Assistants: An Annual Report of the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants. http://www.nccpa.net/uploads/docs/RecentlyCertifiedReport2013.pdf.