Exploring Physician Assistant (PA) Autonomy and the Relationship Between PAs and Supervising Physician(s) in Canada
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INTRODUCTION: Currently, 530 PAs are working in Canada. The progression of the role of each PA depends on their relationship with their supervising physician(s). Purpose: to gain insight into PA autonomy and physician-PA structure/relationship from the perspective of PAs working in Canada. METHODS: A cross-sectional online survey was distributed to all PAs in Canada. It included questions probing 3 topics: demographics, PA autonomy/physician-PA relationship structure, and stage of the Tuckman Model of group development. Data analysis consisted of measures of central tendency, non-parametric tests, and post-hoc pairwise comparisons. RESULTS: 168 PAs responded. Most PAs (47.3%) work as a single PA with a team of up to 25 physicians. Most (96%) of PAs were confident at their job by 1.5 years. The majority of PAs had been employed for less than 5 years and spend most of the day working autonomously. The time a PA spends consulting with their supervising physician(s) decreases and their perceived autonomy increases with years of experience, with a significant improvement noted after 5 years. Differences were observed between the different specialty groups. CONCLUSIONS: In general, autonomy increased with time and experience, while the frequency of consulting decreased. PAs in larger teams feel less autonomous and consult with their supervising physician(s) more frequently. Three quarters of respondents identified with the highest functioning ‘Performing’ stage of the Tuckman Model.