Nutrition knowledge and attitudes of physician assistants in Texas

Debby Kay Demory-Luce, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Physician Assistants (PAs) are increasingly assuming more responsibilities as "front-line" health providers due to emphasis on primary care and cost-containment in the rapidly changing health care environment. Nutrition plays an important role in health promotion and disease prevention. Primary care providers, including PAs, have enormous potential as nutrition counselors and advocates. There have been no studies to date that address the PAs' adequacy of nutrition education or their attitudes toward the value of nutrition. Therefore, it was the purpose of the study to determine the nutrition knowledge and attitudes of PAs in Texas. All certified physician assistants in Texas were eligible for the study. A mailed survey was sent to 1,482 PAs in Texas with a response rate of 54.2%. The sample utilized for data analysis was 764 PAs. The study compared the nutrition knowledge mean scores for PAs who graduated from a PA program greater than 11 years ago with those who graduated less than 11 years ago. The study also examined Texas PAs' attitudes about their nutrition education training, the value of nutrition counseling, and their perceived ability to provide such nutrition counseling. Demographic and practice information was collected from the PAs. Demographically, PAs in Texas were found to be comparable to the national population of PAs surveyed in 1996. The overall mean level of nutrition knowledge was 70% correct. The mean level of nutrition knowledge was significantly related to the type of PA program that the PA graduated from (i.e., Certificate only or Master's degree level). No significant relationships were found between the mean nutrition knowledge score and age, year of graduation, length of practice, or the type of nutrition education provided in PA program. The majority of the PAs surveyed felt that diet and nutrition has an important role in disease prevention and felt that PA programs should place a greater emphasis on nutrition education. Many PAs surveyed were not satisfied with the amount of nutrition education they had received in their PA education programs and were not confident in their ability to provide nutrition counseling to patients. Suggestions are offered for improvement in PA nutrition education in the areas of both nutrition knowledge and patient counseling skills. In addition, this study recommends developing and strengthening partnerships between PAs and nutrition organizations.

Subject Area

Nutrition|Health education

Recommended Citation

Demory-Luce, Debby Kay, "Nutrition knowledge and attitudes of physician assistants in Texas" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9809539.