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A National Survey of postgraduate physician assistant fellowship and residency programs.

  • Author(s): Kidd, Vasco Deon
  • Vanderlinden, Sarah
  • Hooker, Roderick S
  • et al.


The development of postgraduate programs for physician assistants (PAs) began in 1973 and by 2020 there were approximately 72 programs spread across a broad range of medical and surgical disciplines. PA Post-graduate education programs are voluntary and available to American licensed PAs. Therefore, an assessment of the characteristics of PA post-graduate fellowships and residencies programs was initiated.


A non-experimental, descriptive research study was designed to obtain information on the characteristics of PA postgraduate education programs in the US. The source of information was from surveyed members of the Association of Postgraduate Physician Assistant Programs (APPAP). Questions were drawn from consensus discussions. Directors of postgraduate programs that were operational in 2020 were eligible to participate.


Seventy-two postgraduate program directors were invited to the survey and 34 program directors replied. These programs are geographically distributed across the US in 13 states. The respondents represent a wide range of medicine: surgery, emergency medicine, critical care, orthopaedics, hospitalist, psychiatry, oncology, primary care, pediatrics, and cardiology. Most programs are associated with an academic medical center and some institutions have more than one postgraduate specialty track. The curriculum includes bedside teaching, lectures, mentorship, assigned reading, procedures, simulation, and conferences. An average program length is 12 months and awards a certificate. Stipends for PA fellows are $50,000-80,000 (2020 dollars) and benefits include paid time off, health and liability insurance. About half of the programs bill for the services rendered by the PA. Over 90% of graduates are employed within 2 months of completing a PA postgraduate training program.


A trend is underway in American medicine to include PAs in postgraduate education. PA postgraduate training occurs across a broad spectrum of medical and surgical areas, as well as diverse institutions and organizations overseeing these programs. Most PA postgraduate programs are in teaching hospitals where the PA resident or PA fellow also serves as a house officer alongside a categorical resident. This study sets the stage for more granular economic and social research on this growing phenomenon in American medicine.

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