MANUSCRIPT: Knowledge and Perceptions of College Students Regarding the Physician Assistant Profession
Purpose: Physician assistants (PAs) are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. Despite the increasing popularity and utility of the profession, knowledge of the role of PAs remains scarce among many segments of the population. The purpose of this study was to determine the knowledge and perceptions of the PA profession among undergraduate college students, as well as what factors are associated with better knowledge and perception of the profession. Methods: Using a cross-sectional survey, information was gathered regarding knowledge and perception of PAs. A total of 364 students were surveyed from randomly selected undergraduate courses at a Connecticut public university. Results: Knowledge scores were significantly higher (p<0.05) in older students, female students, those with plans to pursue a healthcare career, those majoring in health and human services, and those satisfied with care received from a PA. Significantly better perceptions (p<0.05) of PAs were found in older students, those with plans for a future career in healthcare, those majoring in health and human services, those who received prior care from a PA, and those who were satisfied with prior care from a PA. After a short educational intervention, improvements in perceptions were statistically significant (p<0.001) in the surveyed population. Conclusion: This study identifies areas of needed improvement in knowledge and perception of PAs and also provides impetus for educational and marketing-based interventions to improve knowledge and perception of the PA profession in the college student population.