How to Become a Physician Assistant in Rhode Island
Last year physician assistants in Rhode Island on average earned one of the highest wages in the nation for their field at $112,250. In the preceding decade the healthcare sector was the fastest growing industry in the state, and a high wage coupled with an increasing demand for PAs has made the future outlook for the profession robust. Citizens who are interested in pursuing a career as a PA can study this guide for how to become a physician assistant in Rhode Island:
- Prepare for Admission to Rhode Island Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
- Become Licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Health
- Maintain Rhode Island Licensure
Step 1. Prepare for Admission to Rhode Island Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
When researching the available PA degree programs in Rhode Island, candidates should familiarize themselves with each program’s admission requirements as these vary from institution to institution. Generally though, candidates need to have some clinical experience, have taken the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and have a bachelor degree in any field. The sciences field is particularly beneficial for an undergraduate degree because this will ensure fulfillment of several PA degree program prerequisites. This includes bachelor degrees in:
- Medical Assistant
- Public Health
When choosing a PA degree program candidates should also verify it is certified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) as well as either one of the following:
- American Medical Association’s Committee on Allied Health, Education and Accreditation or its successor
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or its successor
Step 2. Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
Students can register to take the PANCE starting 90 days before they are scheduled to graduate from their PA degree program. The exam covers human anatomy, the human organ system, and the detection and diagnosis of maladies. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the PANCE’s sponsoring agency, offers practice exams for $35 and the registration fee for the PANCE is $475. Once students have passed the exam they will be credentialed as Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) by the NCCPA. The PANCE is completed at a variety of testing centers across Rhode Island and is a computer-based 300-multiple-choice-question exam with five hours allotted for its completion.
Step 3. Get Licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Health
The Rhode Island Department of Health’s Board of Licensure of Physician Assistants is responsible for issuing and approving all PA licenses for the Ocean State. Application packets should be submitted to the Board in Providence and include:
- $110 application fee, or $310 fee if applying for the ability to prescribe controlled substances
- Official PA program transcripts and NCCPA PANCE scores sent directly by the appropriate agencies to the Board, or verified through FCVS
- National Practitioner Data Bank Self-Query
Before beginning their practice PAs must also submit a supervising physician agreement if they are not working in a hospital setting. The application can take 4-6 weeks to process and an additional 7-10 working days for the license to be issued after it is approved.
Step 4. Maintain Rhode Island Licensure
PA Licenses expire June 30th in odd-numbered years. They must be renewed before this time and to do this PAs need to fill out a renewal application that will be mailed to them, pay a renewal fee, and have completed at least 20 hours of approved continuing medical education.
As PAs become more established in their community they may find joining a professional organization such as the Rhode Island Academy of Physician Assistants (RIAPA) provides helpful networking, educational, and support opportunities. PAs can also expand their breadth of involvement by joining a Licensing Board within the Rhode Island Department of Health.