How to Become a Physician Assistant in North Carolina
Although North Carolinians have slightly less instances of heart disease than the rest of the nation, they do experience higher-than-average rates of cancer, strokes, and respiratory disease- the second, third, and fourth most common killers in the Tar Heel State. It is the job of physician assistants working in North Carolina to counter these elevated rates of mortality through immediate treatment but also preventative measures. And the state’s PAs do that and much more- common duties include:
- Ordering x-rays and other lab tests
- Recommending physical therapy
- Helping with surgery
- Making hospital rounds
- Suturing wounds
As the state’s roughly 1.3 million residents currently over the age of 65 become older the career outlook for PAs continues to improve, especially when coupled with the increasing responsibilities of PAs who can now prescribe medicine in all 50 states. Citizens who would like to research more about how to become a physician assistant in North Carolina can consult the following steps:
- Choose North Carolina Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Take the Nationally Qualifying Exam
- Apply to the North Carolina Medical Board for Licensure in the State
- Maintain License Renewal
Step 1. Choose North Carolina Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
The first step in the process of becoming a licensed physician assistant in North Carolina is to choose a degree program certified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). This accreditation is required by the commission in charge of administering the national certifying exam which will be discussed in the next step.
Next students will need to make sure they meet the admission requirements for the PA degree program they choose. Usually these include taking the GREs (Graduate Record Examinations) and having logged hours working or volunteering in a clinical setting. Since PA degrees are offered as graduate programs, students should have a bachelor degree in any subject. Common PA program prerequisite courses include anatomy and physiology, biology, and chemistry courses, so having an undergraduate degree related to these fields will save the prospective student some time, such as a bachelor’s in:
- Medical Assistant
- Organic Chemistry
Step 2. Take the National Qualifying PANCE
The Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) covers a student’s knowledge of the major organ systems and their associated disorders. The PANCE is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which is the agency that bestows the credential Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) on students who successfully pass the exam. Lasting five hours, the PANCE is a 300-question computer-based multiple-choice exam available four times a year at testing centers around North Carolina. Students can register online where they can also pay the $475 registration fee and complete practice exams available for a $35 fee.
Step 3. Apply to the North Carolina Medical Board
There are two main parts to completing an application for a PA License: arranging for documents to be sent to the Board and a candidate’s own application. Candidates can begin by arranging for the following to be sent to the Board by the appropriate parties:
- PANCE scores to be sent by the NCCPA
- PA degree program diploma to be sent by the applicant’s education program
- Three references, at least one from a physician, that provide an evaluation of an applicant’s character, clinical skills, andacademic competence
The next portion of the licensing process involves a candidate’s online application. It is here that candidates will find official forms for the three steps above as well as:
- Official PA Application for Licensure
- Information regarding a background check and fingerprinting
- $242.75 application fee
- Selection procedure for a primary supervising physician
Step 4. Maintain the North Carolina PA License
All North Carolina PA Licenses expire on their holder’s birthday and must be renewed before this time. Renewals are made through the Medical Board’s website and cost $100. When renewing, PAs must attest they have completed a specified 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) in the preceding two years. However if the PA has graduated from the PA program in the past two years or is currently certified by the NCCPA the Board will accept these in lieu of the 100-hour CME requirement.
Last year there were 4,020 registered PAs working in North Carolina who earned an average salary of $91,060. As beginning PAs can look forward to these career prospects, branching out into professional organizations can help PAs to network, gain valuable information, and support each other. One such organization is the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (NCAPA).