Most physician assistants plan to delay retirement

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Physician assistants (PAs) in the U.S. who are 55 and older don’t plan to retire until an average age of 67, researchers reported in the July edition of American Journal of Managed Care.

The study authors, led by Jennifer Coombs, PhD, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, sent online surveys in 2011 to 12,005 individuals registered through the National Commission on Certified Physician Assistants who were 55 and older considered eligible to be clinically active or to hold a PA license.

Of the 4,142 PAs who met the study criteria, most said they planned to delay retirement an average of 12 years, with most planning to continue practicing another 10 to 25 years.

Although both sexes expressed a similar intent to retire after age 65, and believed they would have a sufficient income at retirement, significantly more women said they were unsure about their future financial security.

“The significant differences that emerged were that men were more confident than women in preparing to retire, having enough money for medical expenses, and being able to live comfortably in retirement,” the authors wrote.

The purpose of this research, they explained, was to learn more about what the PA workforce may look like in the future and understand what factors may impact the number of PAs available to care for an aging population.

The findings were in line with 2008 predictions by the U.S. Bureau of Labor that more Americans are postponing retirement for a number of reasons, the authors noted.

While their results were enlightening, the authors noted some limitations of their research. Among them are the use of unvalidated survey questions and the speculative nature of “intent to retire.” There was also only a 38 percent response rate.

Job satisfaction, family issues and work environment may also play a role in the decision to retire, and these factors, the authors wrote, are perhaps areas worthy of future research.