4 Ways We’re Using Your Data

In the past few years, you have likely noticed — especially if you are a program director — an increase in the number of survey requests you receive from us.

Just a few years ago, our only regularly administered survey was the Annual Program Survey, which drives our yearly By the Numbers report. Today, we don’t just survey programs, but also faculty, students, and graduates. So why the increase?

Earlier this month, ARC-PA announced the addition of five new provisionally accredited PA programs, bringing the total number of accredited programs to 200. The growth in programs shows no sign of slowing — more than 40 new programs are predicted to gain accreditation by mid-2016. As the number of PA programs continues to grow, so do the number — and needs — of our community.

There’s a lot of information out there that’s important for us to know.

How much does the average PA educator make?

What kind of experience do PA students have before beginning their program?

Where do PA graduates work after completing their program?

The only way to know information like this — which helps programs, advocates, and researchers — is through surveys. And the more responses we receive, the more accurate the data.

1. Survey Reports

The survey data we collect are published in reports available to our members. In addition to the annual By the Numbers report, PAEA has released data reports from the new Matriculating Student and PA Program Faculty and Directors Surveys, as well as topic-specific brief reports.

These data reports are useful for benchmarking, educational purposes, accreditation, self-study reports, and can be used as references for scholarly work. For example, did you know that the average student-to-faculty ratio is 13 to 1? This could be useful if you are requesting another faculty line in your budget.

Be on the lookout for upcoming releases, including By the Numbers: 30th Report on Physician Assistant Educational Programs in the United States and the results from the 2015 PA Program Faculty and Directors Survey early next year.

2. Data Requests

Did you know that, once survey data are published in report form, they are available for researchers? Our Research Department accepts requests for customized data reports (e.g., health care experience hours for matriculants within their region of the country), as well as subsets of de-identified raw survey data. Whether you are working on a dissertation, increasing scholarly work for promotion, or simply satisfying your passion for research, PAEA survey data can be a high quality, accessible resource for researchers.

3. Advocacy

PAEA’s advocacy efforts are stronger than ever, and it’s important to have high quality, timely data to support our advocacy agenda.

For example, when we advocate for increased Stafford Loan Limits for PA students, having data about tuition, educational debt, and financing strengthens our case. Tell someone — such as your legislator on Capitol Hill — that the average cost of tuition for PA education has risen 86% in the past ten years, and it makes a big impact.

4. Collaboration

Increasingly, the PAEA Research team has worked with our sister organizations (AAPA, ARC-PA, and NCCPA) to share data and reports. More recently, we have initiated projects with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) on workforce and clinical education research-related issues. It is important that we have reliable and valid data to offer in the discussions around interprofessional health care teams.

Sharing data and collaborating with other organizations can lead to important partnerships and advances for the PA profession and health care workforce. Remember last year’s Recruiting and Maintaining U.S. Clinical Training Sites? PAEA collaborated with the AAMC, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine to collect and report the findings of data on clinical rotation shortages across the nation — an important issue facing all health professions.

In the midst of regular program duties, we know survey participation may not always be at the top of your to-do list, but by responding promptly and accurately to PAEA survey requests, you’re helping your program, faculty, and students.

To learn more about PAEA’s surveys and other research efforts, please see the PAEA Survey and Research Events Calendar, or contact the PAEA Research Department at