Why Physician Assistants Switched Their Title To Physician Associate

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) has recently voted on changing the title Physician Assistant to Physician Associate. The House of Delegates with the AAPA had a majority vote of 198 to 68.

Why was it changed?
After hours of deliberation from the House of Delegates, they ultimately decided to change Physician Assistant to Physician Associate. Back in May of 2018, the AAPA investigated how changing the Physician Assistant to Physician Associate title would benefit the providers. WPP recognized that PAs play a massive role in providing quality healthcare and a title change was essential.

  1. PAs are medical clinicians with graduate-level education, and the term “Assistant” demeaned their level of education and skills.
  2. Though PAs tend to work under a practicing physician, they can work independently and consult with a physician when needed.
  3. Many members of the public do not know the differences between a Medical Assistant and a Physician Assistant. This causes issues when the general public goes to receive medical treatment/advice.
  4. Positions that are considered “Assistants” tend to work under another higher-up employee. Though still considered a lower authority position, an associate tends to have a better ring to their title. Examples being Associate Professors, Business Associates, etc.

Issues with the name change have arisen within the medical community itself, especially for MD/DO physicians that have spent 10+ years working to receive their title. When a person decides to go through med school, they ultimately commit 10+ years to their studies and then have ongoing CME’s and board exams. For physicians, their main concern would be the public misinterpreting the term Physician Associate and receiving their advice only through those PAs. Though many physicians recognize and appreciate what Physciain Associates do, they also know that they are more equipped and have more specific training that guarantees the best information possible for the general public. Though Physician Associates do have a great deal of knowledge of their specialty, physicians would be considered the most reliable source.
Take away
There are pros and cons to the Physician Assistant/Physician Associate change. Though many of the pros outweigh the cons, people may not see the modification as necessary. For the Physician Associate, this new title will help give the general public a better understanding of what they do. Most people will still call Physician Associates PAs in the long run, but the change for this title has been in the works for a few years and has been finalized a couple of months ago.


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