What motivates PAs to change specialties? The PA profession provides not only flexible scheduling but also versatility in scope of practice. According to the AAPA, approximately 6%-7% of PAs changed specialties each year over the past several years. These changes differed by gender and specialty and occurred for a variety of reasons. The most common reason for switching specialties in 2015 was to work in a higher-paying specialty (23.3%), followed by being ready for a change (15%) and to achieve better work-life balance (14.3%). Moving (11.4%) and an intention to change specialties after establishing a broad knowledge based in primary care (10.7%) filled out the top five reasons for changing specialties.
In a recent Doximity poll, 69% of 128 PAs voted that they will not be changing their specialty, 29% responded that they do intend to change specialties, and about 2% were undecided. The poll indicates that more PAs are considering a specialty change this year compared to the AAPA's previous years' 6%-7% rate, though PAs who were thinking about a career change may have been more likely to vote.
While the poll focused solely on the PAs’ decision to switch specialties, rather than their motivations, many Doximity members shared insight into the reasoning behind their decisions. Part of the minority that voted yes, Richard Mondak, PA, shared that he will be “switching” specialties, but only technically, as he is retiring. “I am retiring from clinical practice in September and will remain a consultant for specific clients in our occupational medicine practice for perhaps a year.”
While results showed most PAs do not intend on switching specialties, it is relatively easy for them to do so in the future. PAs are not locked into the specialties they choose at the beginning of their careers. The impact of COVID-19 resulted in specific specialties being hit harder by the pandemic, but despite this, Stephen Benton, PA, shared that he will remain in pulmonology and critical care. “COVID made for a brutal and terrible last year and a half in pulmonary and critical care, but I truly enjoy the specialty and intend on staying put.”
Some PAs, however, are not as certain. Erica Chustz, PA, shared, “I love working in psych and still feel there is a lot to learn. The only other area I would really want to work in would be ob/gyn, but I do get to treat some pregnant patients in my current outpatient mental health role.”
While medicine is always changing and growing, so are the people who work within it. Looking into new specialties may be of interest to practicing PAs, but almost 70% of the survey respondents said they are happy where they are. Whether because of opportunities to learn or grow, or due to the joy certain specialties bring, the majority of PAs are deciding to stay where they are in 2021, even after a tumultuous year.
Are you considering changing your specialty in 2021? Share your thoughts in the comment section.