Level of stress and common coping strategies among physician assistant students

J Physician Assist Educ. 2012;23(4):25-9. doi: 10.1097/01367895-201223040-00006.


Purpose: This study assessed levels of stress and coping strategies in physician assistant (PA) students.

Methods: The study used a descriptive, cross-sectional design. Data were collected through an electronic survey that was sent to all current student members of the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants (N = 560). The Perceived Stress Scale was used to measure level of stress, and the Brief COPE Inventory was used to measure coping strategies.

Results: A total of 146 (26.3%) students participated in the study. Most respondents were female, young, single, and Caucasian/non-Hispanic. The mean stress score was 33.3, higher than that reported in the overall general US population. Areas of most concern included feeling nervous and stressed, feeling upset about unexpected happenings, and an inability to control life's irritations and manage personal problems. Self-distraction, venting, and self-blame were the most frequently used unhealthy coping strategies. Acceptance, active coping, and emotional support were the most frequently used positive coping strategies.

Conclusion: The results of this study indicated that students in PA training experience higher levels of stress than the general population in the United States, making healthy coping strategies among PA students particularly important. The results of this study can inform future research, curriculum design, teaching methods, and educational intervention in PA training programs.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician Assistants / education
  • Physician Assistants / psychology*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students, Health Occupations / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas