Research

Researchers Team up with NAM to Address PA Burnout

By Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-CDecember 12, 2018

Photo credit: Shutterstock

PAEA investments in research continue to pay dividends.

Earlier this month, a group of PA researchers published a seminal literature review discussion paper focusing on PA burnout for the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). This paper represents a significant PA contribution to the NAM’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience, created in 2017.

The Collaborative is comprised of a network of more than 60 organizations studying clinician burnout and exploring solutions to reduce this troubling trend. The group has three goals:

  • Raise the visibility of clinician anxiety, burnout, depression, stress, and suicide
  • Improve baseline understanding of challenges to clinician well-being
  • Advance evidence-based, multidisciplinary solutions to improve patient care by caring for the caregiver

The seven PA researchers on the paper, led by first author Alison C. Essary, DHSc, MHPE, PA-C, included Kari S. Bernard, MS, PA-C; Bettie Coplan, MPAS, PA-C; Richard Dehn, MPA, PA-C; J. Glenn Forister, PhD, PA-C; Noël E. Smith, MA; and Virginia L. Valentin, DrPH, PA-C. The authors note that “this is the first paper to explore the literature that relates specifically to PA burnout and career and job satisfaction.”

Some of their key findings include: PAs working in high burnout specialties, such as emergency medicine, primary care, hospice and palliative care, and oncology, appear to develop burnout at levels similar to their physician colleagues. Yet, some studies indicate that job and career satisfaction remain high. The adaptable nature of the PA role lends itself to specialty transition, which may serve as a buffer against the long-term effects of burnout.

AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship Connection

The invitation for this paper originated in the jointly funded AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship, which launched in 2018. The first cohort of research fellows met at the NAM in January during a seminar hosted by Director of Health Policy Fellowships and Leadership Programs Gregg Margolis, who introduced the research fellows to several NAM project directors, including Sharyl Nass, Board director of the Action Collaborative.

“This is an important paper that paints the landscape of what we now understand about PA burnout and sets the stage to fill in the research gaps the authors identified,” said PAEA CEO Timi Agar Barwick, MPM. Barwick also underscored the important role that the joint AAPA-PAEA effort supporting the Research Fellowship played in making this collaboration with the NAM a reality.

Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C

Dave spent 30 years precepting students and serving on the faculty of the University of Utah PA Program. Last year, after finishing up a year-long stint in Washington, DC, as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation fellow, he joined the PAEA staff as chief policy & research officer.