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Specialty Spotlights October 6, 2021

By Debra Wood, RN

PA Week: Celebrating Staff and Locum PAs

Across the country, physician assistants are celebrating PA Week, from October 6-12, in an annual opportunity to recognize these trusted healthcare professionals and their important contributions to the country’s health.  

The occupation has experienced tremendous growth, with many permanent PA jobs and locum PA opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 31 percent increase in PA jobs by 2030, much greater than the average for all occupations. 

Additionally, more physician assistants and nurse practitioners are working locum tenens, constituting 16 percent of all locum providers, up from 8 percent in 2016, according to the 
Staff Care 2021 Survey of Locum Tenens Physicians and Advanced Practitioners. 

Why Some PAs Choose Locum Travel

“Most PAs want to travel, make their own schedules, and have the flexibility that full-time positions do not offer,” said Chelsea Carlisle, a career advisor for Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company that specializes in locum tenens assignments. “During PA Week, I reach out to all of my PA providers and tell them how much I appreciate them.”  

Mercy Pearce, PA-C, has traveled as a locum PA for two years, with Carlisle as her advisor.  

“I love to travel and always thought to do locums,” Pearce said. “Before my mother died, she advised me to stop talking about my dreams and to go live my dreams, so I turned in my notice to my full-time job and started traveling. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I like getting off the beaten track.”

Pearce also enjoys making friends while on her locum physician assistant assignments. 
 “Mercy is a rock star; her passion and love for what she does stand out,” Carlisle said. “Every single assignment, her peers and supervisor speak highly about her and her work ethic. She is always the first person to step up and help.”

Demand Rebounds For Locum PAs

Carlisle reported a “huge demand for locum PAs” nationwide. She explained with the ongoing physician shortage, “PAs are an integral part of the healthcare system.”  

In the past year, PAs have come forward to help care for COVID-19 patients. At the start of the pandemic, Carlisle reported a drop in demand, but more recently, clinic and hospital requests for physician assistants have grown, including crisis assignments. 

“Mercy worked at a field hospital in Southern California, working solely with COVID-19 patients,” Carlisle said. “PAs on the front lines stepped up to help.”

Pearce has a degree in public health science, a field she said she loves. The assignment “was an opportunity to combine my profession as a PA with public health and was too good to pass up,” Pearce said. “We were trying to see what worked for infection control and treatment of the patients.”

The first locum specialties to return in high demand post-COVID-19 were primary care, emergency departments, and hospitalists. The need for PAs is high in California, New York, Florida, and Texas, in both rural and urban areas.

Some rural locations have more difficulty recruiting providers to come to their facility than do large cities. That leads to a need for locum PAs. 

Some PAs, including Pearce, prefer the rural locations to big cities, even if the rural facilities lack the same technology and resources available in large urban medical centers. She finds it challenges her to be more creative. Additionally, the patients are so grateful for her care.

“I like getting off the beaten path and to see the United States,” Pearce said. “It gives me a chance to visit places I would never have visited otherwise. And it gives me the opportunity to explore the local culture and surrounding areas.”

Locum PA Jobs

Most locum PA positions last an average of three months, but some assignments can be extended. Pay rates are ultimately up to the client. However, Carlisle said, locum rates are often higher than for permanent positions.   

The most important aspects to those hiring locum PAs are experience and availability. PAs who can work full time are easier to place. But many PAs continue with their full-time job and pick up locum tenens shifts near where they live. Staff Care will assist with licensing when needed.

“The beauty of locums is they can choose their schedule and where they will go,” Carlisle said. “And they can travel while practicing medicine.”

Additionally, locum PAs avoid the hospital or clinic politics, committee assignments, and administrative tasks, said Carlisle, adding, “They go in, do their work, and go home.”

When time allows, Pearce often will take the scenic route to her next assignment and stop to explore. She travels with a recreational vehicle, a motorcycle, and two dogs. During a fall assignment, she rode her motorcycle through the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York, to view the changing leaf colors.

“I love getting to know people and different cultures across the United States,” Pearce said. “If you are someone who enjoys change and different locations, cultures, workgroups, and patient populations, then locums are extremely rewarding…I like being able to make an impact on people’s lives.”

To learn more about locum tenens PA positions, 
contact a Staff Care career advisor today.  




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