Iowa Faces Shortage Of Physician Assistants, Especially In Rural Areas

Des Moines, Iowa – Iowa already faces a shortage of primary care doctors and registered nurses. Now, a University of Iowa study finds there’s also a looming shortage of physician assistants, or P-As. Tom Gruca , a U-I professor of marketing at the Tippie College of Business, says a recent survey found more than 870 P-As on duty in Iowa, but of those, 485 are at least 50 years old.


There are four schools in Iowa training P-As, at: the U-I, Des Moines University, the University of Dubuque and St. Ambrose University in Davenport. The study found Iowa’s P-A population is rising three to four-percent each year, but Gruca says those numbers will start to shift downward as more P-As near retirement age.


P-As are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and often serve as the patient’s health care provider. In Iowa, P-As help to fill a gap created by a shortage of M-Ds and Gruca says P-As are especially vital in rural Iowa.


About 30-percent of Iowa’s P-A workforce practices in rural areas, compared to 15-percent nationwide. Also, Gruca says a higher proportion of Iowa’s P-As practice in primary care, about 56-percent, compared to the nation as a whole at 30-percent. Gruca’s study, “The Workforce Trends of Physician Assistants in Iowa (1995-2015),” was published in the October 2018 edition of the journal PLOS ONE.



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