On May 24'th, 2021, the AAPA made an "earth-shattering" announcement when they proclaimed that "the AAPA House of Delegates (HOD) passed a resolution affirming “physician associate” as the official title for the PA profession."
For many, like myself, who took the AAPA name change survey in 2019, we breathed an instant sigh of relief. This certainly would mean the death of the AAPA/WPPs survey approved title "Medical Care Practitioner" and, even worse, "Praxician!"
For others, like my colleague Jane, a 27-year seasoned PA veteran, the news didn't seem to shatter her earth at all. I could tell when she looked up at me and said, "Oh, I didn't know the name change was a thing?"
But for those of you who are Pre-PAs running on the CASPA hamster wheel, the AAPA threw a wrench in your gears.
Wanting to come across as knowledgeable and not wanting to offend anyone (especially the PA school ADCOMs), you may be wondering how to address the PA profession on your CASPA personal statement.
How to Address the PA Profession on your CASPA Personal Statement
In the press release, the AAPA made it clear that "It is inappropriate for PAs to hold themselves out as “physician associates” at this time until legislative and regulatory changes are made to incorporate the new title."
For this reason, I suggest you continue to write “physician assistant (PA)” on your CASPA personal statement.
I also suggest you continue to write "physician assistant (PA)" on your supplemental applications and all supporting materials that you will be submitting for the 2021 application season. The only caveat to this rule is if the school you are applying to (such as Yale) specifically uses the term “associate” in their supplemental materials or on their program website.
If there is still any question about program-specific best practices, it is always OK to contact the PA program by telephone or email them directly.
Can PAs start calling themselves “physician associates” now? Here is the AAPA's most up-to-date guidance!
Be Prepared to Express Your Feelings on the Physician Assistant/Associate Name Change
Although you will continue to use physician assistant (PA) in your communications with PA schools, colleagues, and the PA school admissions committee, I recommend you do your homework regarding the physician assistant/physician associate name change.
It's time to ditch the one-line canned response that focuses on the term "assistant" versus "associate" and be prepared to deep dive with some cold hard facts that show you have done your homework and you are interested in the future of the PA profession.
- The WPP estimates that the total cost of the change from physician assistant to physician associate will be $21 million over 5 years.
- There is more than meets the eye with the PA name change. PAs are the only major healthcare provider without a terminal doctorate. How could this be addressed in the coming years?
- Physician associate is hardly a new idea - the Yale PA program has continued to train “physician associates” since its inception in 1971.
- AAPA Survey respondents were split between Medical Care Practitioner and Physician Associate. Respondents inside the profession, i.e., PAs and PA students, chose Physician Associate while “employers, physicians, and patients” preferred Medical Care Practitioner. WPP suggested the acronym MCP. What do you think?
- Apparently, WPP considered the similarity between the Physician Associate acronym (PA) and the current Physician Assistant acronym (also PA) to be a bad thing? Really? What do you think?
- How does the name change fit in with the above-mentioned optimal team practice? How about full practice authority (FPA)?
- How does the name physician associate relate to PAs around the world?
These are just some of the things the recent name change should get you thinking about.
Assistant for now Associates forever?
Although, for now, I advise you to keep the "assistant" in the PA on your CASPA application essay, you must understand this name change is the first domino in a chain of events that is likely to rock the PA profession in the coming years.
If you understand this, you understand the PA profession, and this is what the PA school ADCOMs want to see most in your PA school application (and during your interview).
If all this makes your brain hurt, book a one-hour consultation with one of our PRE-PA advisors. You will get guidance on your CASPA application from a seasoned PA who has been in your shoes, knows the application process inside and out, and will help you navigate the rapidly changing PA landscape.
Have a fantastic day!
- Stephen Pasquini PA-C
View all posts in this series
- How to Write the Perfect Physician Assistant School Application Essay
- The Physician Assistant Essay and Personal Statement Collaborative
- Do You Recognize These 7 Common Mistakes in Your Personal Statement?
- 7 Essays in 7 Days: PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 1, “A PA Changed My Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 2, “I Want to Move Towards the Forefront of Patient Care”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 3, “She Smiled, Said “Gracias!” and Gave me a Big Hug”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 4, “I Have Gained so Much Experience by Working With Patients”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 5, “Then Reach, my Son, and Lift Your People up With You”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 6, “That First Day in Surgery was the First Day of the Rest of my Life”
- PA Personal Statement Workshop: Essay 7, “I Want to Take People From Dying to Living, I Want to Get Them Down From the Cliff.”
- Physician Assistant Personal Statement Workshop: “To say I was an accident-prone child is an understatement”
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- 5 Tips to Get you Started on Your Personal Essay (and why you should do it now)
- How to Write Your Physician Assistant Personal Statement The Book!
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