The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) passed new policy last week changing the profession’s official title to “physician associate” rather than the traditional “physician assistant” (PA).
The Texas Medical Association opposes this move and is monitoring it, says Dan Finch, TMA’s vice president for advocacy. But PAs are unlikely to use “physician associate” professionally for two reasons, he says.
First, as AAPA acknowledges on its own website, any effort to implement this change will be long and complex. It will require changes in both federal and state laws and regulations as well as changes in institutional bylaws at hospitals, universities, and other medical facilities.
The AAPA website says its own legal counsel recommends against using the term “physician associate” because it could lead to legal challenges.
In a statement, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) said under current Texas law, “the use of the title ‘Physician Assistant’ is required. The Texas Medical Board and Physician Assistant Board cannot allow use of any other title for the profession. Any change of the professional title requires legislative action.” (The Physician Assistant Board is under the authority of TMB.)
Second, other PA professional organizations have not ratified the proposed change. This includes state organizations, Mr. Finch says.
“We look forward to discussing this with the Texas Association of Physician Assistants,” he said.
Nor has the proposed change been ratified by other national organizations, including the Physician Assistant Education Association, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, and the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.
TMA policy states that PAs are skilled professionals “under the supervision and direction of a licensed physician who is ultimately responsible for the performance of that assistant.”
Check out TMA’s Scope of Practice page to see how TMA’s dogged advocacy throughout the 2021 Texas legislative session stopped numerous attempts to expand nonphysicians’ scope of practice.