How to Become a Physician Assistant in Alaska
Physician assistants in Alaska are the backbone of the state’s healthcare system. For every two doctors in the Last Frontier State there are nearly three PAs, who in 2012 made an average salary of $96,630. To ensure top-notch healthcare quality for its residents, Alaska regulates its PAs – who numbered 550 by a recent count – according to rules set out in statutes under the supervision of the State Medical Board. The process of how to become a physician assistant in Alaska proceeds as follows:
- Meet the Necessary Prerequisites for a Qualified PA Program
- Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE)
- Apply to the State Medical Board for Alaska Licensure
- Maintain Certification and Become Established
Step 1. Meeting PA Degree Prereqs and Choosing the Right Program
Because physician assistant degree programs are considered to be at the graduate level, potential candidates need to have already obtained a bachelor’s degree. PA programs are mostly organic science-based with some psychology as well and often have prerequisites in these subject areas that must be met before beginning the main courses. Having a bachelor degree that already fulfills some of these prereqs can save time. These include majors in:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Medical Assistant
- Find a Bachelor Degree in one of the previous
However, strategic planning when obtaining a bachelor degree in any subject can knock out PA program prerequisites as well. Many programs also require candidates to have previous work or volunteer experience in the health care field and to have completed the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) prior to application. Conditions for admission vary among programs so candidates are encouraged to check with their specific institution of interest.
Choosing Qualified Alaska Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
Candidates researching PA graduate degree programs for licensure in Alaska need to find a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), which fulfills requirements mandated by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and the Alaska State Medical Board- both necessary to work legally in the state.
Step 2. The Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE)
Fast forward about two years and students who have now graduated from qualified PA programs can apply to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) to take the PANCE that will qualify them for the title, PA-C or Physician Assistant-Certified. The PANCE is administered in a multiple-choice format with 300 questions to be completed in five hours. Registration for the exam costs $475. The PA-C is one of the required documents applicants must submit when applying for licensure to the Alaska State Medical Board.
Step 3. Applying for Licensure in Alaska
The licensure process with the State Medical Board can take between 8-12 weeks and costs $500 in total. A complete application packet includes the following:
- Notarized Application for Physician Assistant
- Certified copy of PA graduate diploma
- Certified copy of PA-C
- Collaborative Plan with an Alaska-licensed physician
- DEA Registration Certificate
Complete packets may be mailed to the Alaska State Medical Board’s Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing.
Step 4. Staying Certified and Becoming Established
Physician assistants practicing in Alaska need to stay current with both their NCCPA-administered PA-C and their state license. As of the beginning of 2014, PAs wanting to maintain their PA-C must obtain 100 credits of continuing medical education every two years, and pass a recertification exam every 10 years. Licensure in Alaska is required to be renewed every two years, with all licenses expiring on December 31st of even-numbered years. Renewal costs $200 and requires the PA to fill out a Renewal Application.
Once PAs have a thriving practice they will have the opportunity to join advisory boards, councils and other advocacy or education associations. Some of these include:
- Alaska Academy of Physician Assistants
- Alaska State Medical Board
- American Academy of Physician Assistants