A year after the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) announced that it would change the official title of the profession from physician assistant to associate physician, the academy still recommends that its members continue to use the old title. , according to the organization’s website. .
“Changing the title of the profession is a long process,” said an AAPA spokesperson. MedPage today in an email. “Implementing the title change is a complex undertaking that involves a variety of stakeholders — not only other national PA organizations and AAPA constituent organizations — but also state and federal governments, regulators and employers.”
The academy is working to implement the title change in two main ways, the spokesperson said. The first is to use the title internally by updating the name of the AAPA and other local PA organizations. For example, the academy has now legally changed its name to “American Academy of Physician Associates, Inc.” The second approach is to advocate for legislative changes at the state and federal levels — a plan that will take time to accomplish, according to the academy.
The academy voted to change the name of the profession from physician assistant to physician associate at the annual meeting in May 2021. The decision came after a years-long process that involved research into the financial and legal ramifications change and a survey of 7,000 PAs, approximately 600 patients, 125 physicians and 120 employers. This effort culminated in the decision to begin the long process of changing the official title of the profession.
This decision was opposed by several medical groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA). The doctors’ organization was reportedly concerned about the confusion the change would create for patients. It was also reported that the AMA and the American Osteopathic Association viewed the change as a move to expand the scope of practice for PAs, who are legally required to have a permanent agreement with a doctor to practice.
In addition to a partnership with a physician, Physician Assistants must also have a master’s level education which includes more than 2 years of classroom training and more than 2,000 clinical hours in several different specialties. Once physician assistants complete their training and licensing process, they are authorized to take on a range of responsibilities from diagnosing and treating patients to prescribing medications and assisting with surgery.
Shortly after the name change was announced, the AAPA released a letter outlining the academy’s commitment to continue collaborating with physicians in “patient-centered, team-based medical practice.” At the time, AAPA CEO Lisa Gables, CPA, said the change was intended to provide clarity rather than confusion, as the new title better describes the role and responsibilities of PAs.
The Academy will continue to recommend that its members use a Physician Assistant or Physician Assistant until the jurisdiction that governs a member’s license and practice formally adopts the Physician Associate designation. The academy said this recommendation is especially important when physician assistants interact with patients in a clinical setting.