Many factors cause shifts in the pathologist assistant job market. Pathologists’ assistants are highly skilled, trained, and credentialed medical professionals who perform grossing responsibilities in various pathology lab settings. Like many other healthcare workers, the intensive amount of schooling, experience, and certifications needed to become a qualified pathologists’ assistant can add a protective layer of insulation regarding career resilience.
However, even the medical community is not entirely immune to shifts in the job market—including pathologists’ assistants and histotechs. Circumstances both inside and outside the lab can have an impact on job growth for PAs. Knowing some of the most significant factors that influence the market climate for PAs can help shape and accelerate the search for qualified candidates in your lab.
Pathologist Shortages Can Affect Pathologists’ Assistant Hiring Trends
The availability of qualified pathologists often plays an integral role in the pathologist assistant job market. Over the last several years, the U.S. has experienced significant shortages across multiple medical verticals, including pathology. Recent statistics indicate the total number of U.S.-certified pathologists has steadily declined over the last decade.
In May 2019, the Jama Network published a report revealing that between 2007 and 2017, the total number of active U.S. pathologists plummeted by 17.53 percent, going from 15,568 to 12,839. The decrease in pathologists can directly influence the job market for pathologists’ assistants seeking employment. As labs begin seeking new talent, a pathologist shortage may prompt lab leaders to readjust their hiring model to include more pathologists’ assistants and travel pathologists’ assistants to fill openings in the facility.
Pathologists’ assistant shortages also impact the job market. There are approximately 2,300 PAs in the U.S. The low number of qualified grossing professionals can directly influence hiring needs in regions that have few, if any, local PA candidates. These facilities often utilize travel pathologists’ assistants in their operations to source the very best candidates in the U.S., manage internal benchmarks, maintain lab productivity and enable pathologists to focus on other work.
Lab Trends Influence the Need for Hiring Pathologist Assistants
Pathologists’ assistants are a rare example of professionals who may find hiring opportunities with both growing and shrinking lab budgets. Lab leaders navigating through tight (or slashed) budgets quickly find lab productivity and overall output levels suffering. Funding restrictions can increase the demand for pathologists’ assistants as a more cost-efficient way to sustain operations.
Pathologists can command a starting salary as high as $250,000, which can prove cost prohibitive for many labs. New PAs joining the workforce generally land salaries starting between $75,000–$90,000. Health facilities that don’t have the budget required to bring on another pathologist may move forward with pathologists’ assistants as a cost-effective solution for labs seeking medical professionals qualified to gross.
Additionally, opting to bring on a travel pathologists’ assistant can further drive value in labs with limited budgets. Contract PAs get paid a set hourly rate, eliminating the need to cover a full pathologists’ assistant salary. Typically, hiring laboratories are charged for 40 hours each week, while the medical staffing agency absorbs payroll, benefits, and malpractice insurance, reducing both overall costs and risk to the lab. Bringing on a temporary pathologists’ assistant eliminates hiring pressure, enabling labs to take their time finding the right permanent resource for the facility.
Busy labs with more robust budgets can also help strengthen the hiring terrain for pathologist assistants. A thriving laboratory often needs to build out its internal staff of resources to meet both pathologist and patient demands. Sourcing qualified pathologist assistants or travel PAs can provide strategic growth that maintains a steady focus on costs for optimal return on investment.