By Debra Wood, RN, contributor Oct 06, 2021
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 contribution 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
“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 stands 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
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
“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.
locations have more difficulty recruiting providers to come to their facility
than do large cities. That leads to a need for locum 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, work groups and patient populations,
then locums is extremely rewarding…I like being able to make an impact on
To learn more
about locum tenens PA positions, contact a Staff Care career advisor today.
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