Burnout Rates for the Highest Paid PA Specialties

PA Coaching • May 27, 2023

In this video, I will review the corresponding burnout rates for the highest paid PA specialties. We’ll also discuss what you can do to prevent burnout in your career.

Burnout Rates for the Highest Paid PA Specialties

In the fast-paced and demanding field of healthcare, burnout has become a significant concern. Burnout is characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion, depersonalization, compassion fatigue, and a decreased sense of personal achievement. While one might assume that the highest paid physician assistant (PA) specialties experience the highest rates of burnout, the reality may surprise you. In this article, we will explore the burnout rates in the highest paid PA specialties and shed light on the relationship between salary and burnout.

Critical Care

The burnout rates for the highest paid PA specialties: Critical care has been found to have the highest rate of burnout. Approximately 63 percent of critical care PAs reported experiencing burnout in February 2022. This finding is not unexpected considering the high acuity of patients in critical care settings. Critical care PAs face the challenges of managing severely ill patients, high patient turnover, and heavy workloads. The stress and demands placed on these professionals, particularly during the pandemic, contribute to their high burnout rates.

Emergency Medicine

Second Highest Rate of Burnout Following critical care, the specialty with the second-highest rate of burnout among the highest paid PAs is emergency medicine. Around 61 percent of PAs in the emergency room reported feelings of burnout in February 2022. The emergency department is known for its high patient volume, fast-paced environment, and constant demand for quality care. The combination of long hours, administrative duties, and the need to provide continuous care to patients can be physically and mentally exhausting.

Urgent Care

Third Highest Rate of Burnout Urgent care, another specialty in the top 10 highest paid PA specialties, ranks third in terms of burnout rates. The high volume of patients seeking acute care in urgent care centers, often due to the lack of a primary care physician, contributes to the demanding nature of the job. PAs in urgent care settings are often expected to see a large number of patients within short timeframes, leading to emotional and physical exhaustion. The additional burden of paperwork and administrative tasks further adds to the stress and burnout experienced by urgent care PAs.

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Salary and Burnout

Not Directly Proportional Contrary to popular belief, the highest paid PA specialties do not always correspond to the highest rates of burnout. For instance, dermatology, the second-highest paid specialty, reported a burnout rate of only around 40 percent. This discrepancy highlights the fact that salary alone is not indicative of burnout levels. Factors such as patient acuity, workload, administrative burden, and systemic inefficiencies play significant roles in determining burnout rates.

Addressing Burnout in High-Demand Specialties

While working in high-demand specialties like critical care, emergency medicine, and urgent care can be challenging, it is still possible to prevent or manage burnout. Setting boundaries, prioritizing personal wellness, and finding activities outside of medicine that bring joy are essential steps in reducing burnout. Taking time for regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, and seeking support from colleagues and loved ones can help alleviate the stress associated with these specialties. Recognizing the signs of burnout and reaching out for help when needed is crucial for maintaining long-term well-being.


Salary and burnout rates in the highest paid PA specialties do not always align. Critical care, emergency medicine, and urgent care specialties, despite being among the top paid, exhibit higher rates of burnout. The demanding nature of these specialties, coupled with systemic inefficiencies and high patient volumes, contribute to the emotional and physical exhaustion experienced by PAs. However, it is possible to work in these specialties without succumbing to burnout by prioritizing personal well-being and finding harmony between work and personal life. By understanding the relationship between salary and burnout, PAs can make informed decisions about their career paths and take proactive steps to maintain a fulfilling and sustainable professional life.

Also read: Top 10 Highest Paid Physician Assistant Specialties

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!