Background: Over the last three decades, the physician assistant (PA) profession has seen an increase in the number of women in the profession, a decline in the age of new PA graduates, a movement toward specialty practice, and an exponential growth in the workforce as a whole. Historically, surveys reveal the majority of PAs are satisfied with their career choice and current job. Although a majority of PAs report high job satisfaction, career burnout is still significant within the profession. Career burnout among health care providers continues to rise due to the strains of the US healthcare system, growing patient populations, and increased administrative burden.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine overall career satisfaction and retention rates among physician assistants with 10 years of clinical experience or more versus less than 10 years of clinical experience. The results of this study will provide a means to analyze the various aspects of a PA’s career which contribute most significantly to long term job satisfaction and will ultimately serve to improve retention rates among all institutions.

Methods: A survey addressing job characteristics, overall career satisfaction, and retention rates was sent to program directors of 254 varying PA programs across the country. The participants were split into two groups: Group A (participants with < 10 years of clinical practice experience) and Group B (participants with > 10 years of clinical practice experience).

Results: Group A contained 127 participants (20 males, 107 females). The majority of the participants were aged 20-39 years old, began their PA career at 25-30 years of age, and had been working as a PA for 2-5 years. Group B contained 71 participants (26 males, 44 females, 1 undisclosed gender). The majority of the participants were 30-49 years old, began their PA careers between the ages of 25-30, and had been working as a PA for more than 15 years.

Discussion: Overall, the majority of the participants in the study were females currently practicing in a surgical subspecialty at a non-academic institution in an outpatient setting, which correlates with national data from the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Both groups rated job satisfaction a 4 out of 5. Autonomy from supervising physicians differed between Group A and Group B; these differences are likely due to an expansion of knowledge, refined clinical skills, and increasing rapport with the supervising physician that develops over years of clinical practice.