Interservice Physician Assistant Program: Educators for an Expanding Profession

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Abstract

Purpose

The number of physician assistant (PA) programs has increased exponentially across the past decade, and the demand for PAs will likely remain strong through 2025. Because of this rapid growth, both new and established PA programs face significant challenges in recruiting experienced educators. We describe the value of using PAs trained through the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) as civilian PA educators.

Methods

The literature on IPAP and its graduates proved too limited to conduct a formal systematic review. We searched the PubMed and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases for works speaking to the value that IPAP-trained PAs may bring to civilian PA training. Those findings were supplemented with informal conversations with IPAP-trained PAs currently employed in the military and those working in civilian PA education. Themes were identified supporting the potential value of IPAP-trained PAs in civilian training.

Results

Military PAs work within hierarchical organizations and may transition easily to academic settings. They leave military service not only as highly trained and proficient primary care providers but also as experienced educators. Military PAs must demonstrate professionalism across their entire military careers. They serve as leaders and work in teams, but they are also experienced in negotiating up chains of command. They are trained in and apply the latest innovations in health care delivery and have provided care with a degree of autonomy uncommon in civilian PA practice.

Conclusions

The PAs trained through IPAP leave the service with skills and experiences valuable to civilian PA training. Employing these PAs in civilian education honors their service contributions while addressing emerging PA educator workforce demands.

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