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Upon graduation from an accredited PA program, candidates for the profession must pass the certifying examination developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners and administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Wisconsin requires candidates to pass this examination prior to licensure as a PA. However, a nonrenewable temporary license may be obtained in Wisconsin as long as a qualified graduate is either scheduled to take the PA examination or has taken the examination and is awaiting the results. The temporary license is valid in every way as the permanent license. State licensure also requires passing an online, open-book examination on the Wisconsin Statutes and Administrative Code. Licensure must be renewed every 2 years.
Those who successfully pass the certifying examination may use the title “Physician Assistant-Certified” (PA-C). PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and pass recertification exams every ten years to maintain national certification. A minimum of 50 hours must be earned in Category 1 CME credit as defined and approved by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) or other accrediting body such as the AMA or AAFP. Additionally, 20 of the 50 Category I CME credits must be earned through performance-improvement or self-assessment CME. More information on PA education may be found at Physician Assistant Education Association online (PAEA). More information on PA national certification may be found at NCCPA.
Specialty Certificates of Added Qualifications
As of 2011, certified and licensed PAs are eligible to earn a specialty certificate of added qualifications (CAQ) by documenting continuing medical education in a specific specialty, working for one to two years in that specialty field, completing appropriate procedures and patient case experiences for the specialty, and passing a specialty examination. The NCCPA currently offers CAQs in seven specialty areas: cardiovascular/thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, hospital medicine, nephrology, orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, and psychiatry.7 CAQs are not required by employers and have no bearing on a PA’s certification or state licensure. As of December 2014, fewer than 800 PAs nationwide had earned specialty CAQs (37 in the state of Wisconsin).