10 things for physicians to know about PAs, RNs & APNs

The importance of non-physician clinical staff in healthcare organizations is increasing, namely due to the imminent physician shortage and the increasing pressures placed upon a physician's time. Here are 10 things to know about physician assistants, registered nurses and advanced nurse practitioners.

1. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants earn more than non-clinical staff. The average annual pay for a nurse practitioner is $87,000. Registered nurses earn significantly less at $52,000.1

2. A Medscape nurse salary report, which polled 8,256 nurses, including licensed practical/vocational nurses, registered nurses and advanced practice nurses, noted over 50 percent of nurses reported a salary increase  in 2014 compared with 2013.2

Here are five key findings on changes in nurse salary from 2013 to 2014:

¥    Increased by more than 10 percent — 7 percent
¥    Increased by 10 percent or less — 45 percent
¥    Remained the same — 39 percent
¥    Decreased by 10 percent or less — 6 percent
¥    Decreased by more than 10 percent — 3 percent

3. RNs typically earn the most in the West (California and Hawaii — $105,000) and the least in the North Central region (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota — $69,000).2  

4. Nearly two-thirds — 62 percent — of registered nurses over age 54 are considering retirement within the next three years, according to AMN Healthcare's annual survey of registered nurses. The survey also found that 85 percent of nurses are happy with their career choice, but they are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs and the future of the care environment.

5. A number of states (21 and Washington, D.C.) allow nurse practitioners to practice without physician oversight. This year, Ohio became the 22nd state to consider a modernization bill that would allow nurse practitioners and other advanced-practice nurses to practice without physician oversight.

6. The demand for physician assistants is growing, according to a 2015 Merritt Hawkins report.3 Specific findings from the report include:

¥    Searches for PAs were up 177 percent from 2011/12 to 2013/14
¥    PAs in the hospital setting: 39 percent
¥    PAs in a primary care setting: Around 33 percent
¥    PAs in a specialist setting: About 66 percent
¥    PAs are the 9th most requested Merritt Hawkins search

7. PA salary is on the rise. In 2014, the median base salary for a PA increased to $93,800 a year, representing a $3,800 rise from 2012. In 2015, 54 percent of PAs received monetary bonuses. Over 75 percent of PAs received some type of additional compensation. PAs who had less than one year of experience reported an average base salary of $85,000. This figure increased to $89,000 for PAs with two to four years of experience and $96,000 for PAs with five to nine years of experience.

8. New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida lead the nation as the top 5 states based on the number of PAs.4 Alaska, South Dakota, Maine, Pennsylvania and New York lead the nation as the top 5 states based on the concentration of PAs per 100,000 people.

9. Family medicine has the greatest number of PAs at 19.7 percent, followed by surgical subspecialties (19.5 percent) and emergency medicine (13.8 percent). However, PAs in dermatology make the highest average salary of $112,538.4

10. PAs have the best job in America right now based on the number of job openings, earning potential and career opportunities, according to career site Glassdoor. There are more than 45,000 job openings for PAs and the role is associated with high career opportunities, with employees rating the job 3.5 out of five for opportunities.


1. Medscape's Clinical and Office Staff Salary Report 2015
2. Medscape Nurse Salary Report 2015

3. 2014 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives by Merritt Hawkins

4. Data from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants

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