Role of physician assistants in dialysis units and nephrology

J. E. Anderson, J. R. Torres, D. C. Bitter, S. C. Anderson, G. R. Briefel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We surveyed physician assistants who work in nephrology to report their experience level, primary employer, salary, job responsibilities, and job satisfaction. Additional data were obtained from the Nephrology Manpower Study. The 67 responding physician assistants of 97 surveyed have 10.8 ± 6.6 years (mean ± standard deviation) total experience (6.2 ± 5.0 years in nephrology). Typically, nephrologists (56.1%) or hospitals (30.3%) employ them. The majority (74%) earn $49,999 to $75,000; 79.1% work in outpatient units, 52.4% in inpatient units, 52.4% in hospitals, 43.3% in outpatient offices, and 23.9% in transplant units. In outpatient units, they manage 111 ± 111 patients, mostly in free-standing (71.1%), for-profit (69.7%), corporately owned (87.3%) units in urban (80%) or suburban (18%) areas. Most (>85%) manage all dialysis- and nondialysis-related problems, including health maintenance; 84.3% are contacted first by staff, and 78% see patients more often than physicians. Of nephrologists who responded to the Manpower Study, 8.9% work with physician assistants and 20.7% work with nurse practitioners. Nephrologists in academic practice or private nephrology groups are more likely to use physician assistants (P < 0.05) and nurse practitioners (P < 0.005) than those in solo practice or multispecialty groups. Nephrologists with physician assistants (33.8 ± 19.5 v 41.7 ± 16.8 h/wk) or nurse practitioners (35.8 ± 18.1 v 42.7 ± 16.9 h/wk) tended to spend less time in direct patient care than those without physician extenders (P < 0.001). Nephrologists with renal fellows, however, spent the least time of all in direct patient care (30.0 ± 15.9 v 47.3 ± 14.9 h/wk; P < 0.001), Physician assistants can perform nearly all the medical tasks in dialysis units. They may offer one approach to providing effective and complete care for patients if nephrology manpower becomes limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-651
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Dialysis
  • Nephrology
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physican assistant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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