Are Physician Assistants Needed in Guatemala? A Survey of Potential Urban and Rural Users

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Abstract

Purpose

The shortage of trained health care personnel has been increasing worldwide. With the physician assistant (PA) profession, created in the United States in the 1960s, expanding globally, this study sought to ascertain whether PAs can be an innovative solution to this crisis.

Methods

We conducted a convenience sample survey to assess the need for and acceptability of future PA professionals in Guatemala. Eighty-nine doctors, nurses, and community members from rural and urban areas of Guatemala participated in the survey.

Results

More urban (70%) than rural (58%) respondents found it difficult to access a doctor, with cost being the major reason (34%). Access in rural areas was reportedly limited by lack of doctors and inaccessible office hours.

Conclusions

Most survey respondents considered PAs to be suitable and potentially helpful providers for Guatemala, with a preference for competencies in the diagnosis of serious illnesses, drug prescription, labor and delivery attendance, and care for injuries and fractures, especially in rural locations. Belonging to the community was deemed very important for a PA who would practice in the country.

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