Entry-Level Clinical Doctorates for PAs: Is it Time?
Tucker, Candice N.
This capstone study was designed to fulfill a request set forth by Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) constituents, as a motion was presented at the 2019 PAEA Education Forum to support a clinical doctorate as an alternate entry-level degree for the PA profession. The primary research question for this project is “Are PA educators in favor of transitioning to an entry-level doctoral degree for the PA profession?”. The secondary research questions for this study are 1) what doctoral degrees are PA educators currently pursuing, and 2) what benefits, if any, do they feel their doctoral degree provided them as a PA educator? In total, 168 PAEA members responded to this study’s survey. Of the total respondents, 86% indicated that they are not in favor of transitioning to any entry-level clinical doctorate for the PA profession. Common themes noted in the open response field associated with this question include concern for the increased cost to students, concern for an entry-level doctoral degree decreasing diversity in the PA profession, and lack of market demand (i.e., transitioning to an entry-level clinical doctorate is just a reaction to other allied health professions doing it and not a true reflection of need or market demand). However, 64% of respondents did feel there should be an optional accredited clinical doctorate for PAs. One of the secondary questions for this research project is “What doctoral degrees are PA educators currently pursuing?”. Of the 168 respondents, 108 either currently have their doctorate or are currently working on their doctorate. When asked, “What type of doctoral degree do you possess/are you pursuing/have you considered?”, 30% of respondents reported an Ed.D., 14% said a Ph.D., 25% reported a D.Msc., 0% reported a DPAS, and 23% reported other. This data illustrates that about 63% of PAEA members who responded to the survey either have or are working on their doctoral degree; however, there is no consistent doctoral degree type that PAEA members are pursuing. The other secondary question for the study is “What benefits, if any, do they feel their doctoral degree provided them as a PA educator?”. About two-thirds (75.61%) of survey respondents agreed that pursuing a doctoral degree increased their development or abilities as a PA Educator. When examining if pursuing a doctoral degree increased the opportunity to be recognized within their organization, 51.22% of respondents said a great deal while 21.95% said a lot, for a total of 73.17%. Finally, when asked if pursuing a doctoral degree increased their sense of belonging within healthcare or academia, 37.5% responded a great deal while 17.5% responded a lot, for a total of 55%. Per the survey findings, PAEA members do not feel that the PA profession should transition to an entry-level clinical doctorate. However, 64% of respondents to this survey did feel that an optional, accredited doctorate for PAs should be established. Therefore, my recommendations are as follows: 1. Create guidelines for an optional, accredited doctorate for PAs. 2. Investigate concerns for transitioning to an entry-level clinical doctorate for validity. 3. Consider including the survey question “Do you feel the entry-level degree for PAs should be a clinical doctorate?” in the mandatory Support To Advance Research (STAR) survey.