How to Become a Physician Assistant in the District of Columbia
Physician assistants working in Washington DC face improving the prospects of a local population whose mortality rates from heart disease and cancer are significantly higher than the national average. Besides encouraging exercise and healthy lifestyles as preventative measure among their patients, PAs in the nation’s capital also regularly:
- Assist doctors in surgery
- Perform physical examinations
- Order lab and other diagnostic tests
- Make hospital rounds
- Coordinate technical assistants
- Counsel patients and their families on medical treatments and options
Students and citizens alike who are interested in careers as PAs can consult the following guide on how to become a physician assistant in DC:
- Apply to DC Physician assistant Programs for Licensure
- Become Nationally Certified Through the NCCPA
- Apply for Licensure with the DC Board of Medicine
- Keep the DC License Current
Step 1. Apply to DC Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
Two important things to remember when choosing a DC physician assistant degree program are its admission requirements and accreditation. Candidates should always check with each individual program for its own specific requirements, although there are some general standards such as:
- Being able to meet the degree program prerequisites in math, chemistry, and biology
- Having a competitive GPA
- Previous experience working in a clinical setting with direct patient involvement
- Bachelor degree in any major, however the following will help to additionally fill PA prereqs:
- Medical Assistant
PA degree program candidates must also ensure the program they choose is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), required for licensure by the DC Board of Medicine.
Step 2. Become Nationally Certified through the NCCPA
The NCCPA or National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants is responsible for its signature certifying exam, the PANCE or Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. Students can register for the PANCE beginning 90 days from when their PA degree program ends, and can prepare by studying the human body’s major organ systems and their affiliated afflictions. Five hours are allotted for the PANCE, which is comprised of 300 computerized multiple-choice questions. When students pass the exam they will gain the NCCPA’s Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) credential. $35 practice exams and testing center locations are available online.
Step 3. Apply for Licensure with the DC Board of Medicine
When making their PA License application to the DC Board of Medicine, candidates should make sure to include:
- $230 application/license fee
- Three letters of reference from physicians or PAs who have knowledge of applicant’s ability to practice as a PA
- PA License Application
- Release of exam results and certification
- PA degree training program certification
- NCCPA scores
- Undergraduate and PA graduate degree transcripts
- Checklist of supporting documents
- Criminal background check
Before being allowed to practice, PAs will also need to submit a Delegation Agreement.
Step 4. Keep the DC License Current
PAs will need to renew their DC license on December 31st of even-numbered years. This can be completed online with a renewal fee and application. PAs are also required to maintain at least 100 hours of continuing medical education by the time of each renewal. Maintaining NCCPA certification also serves to satisfy this requirement.
Physician assistants in DC have the option to join professional organizations where they can network with colleagues, catch up on the latest news in the field, make inquiries, and plug into a support system. The District of Columbia Academy of Physician Assistants (DCAPA) is one such organization. Last year in DC physician assistants earned an average wage of $82,260.