How to Become a Physician Assistant in South Carolina
The Healthcare industry in South Carolina is the state’s fourth largest industry by employment and projected to increase as the Palmetto State’s over-65 population segment – numbering roughly 700,000 people – continues to grow. Physician assistants are more and more filling roles traditionally reserved for doctors, and their numbers are also expected to increase in the coming future. Last year the average wage of a PA in South Carolina came out to $85,470. Students and citizens wanting to know more about how to become a physician assistant in South Carolina can consult the following step-by-step guide:
- Choose Qualified Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
- Apply for licensure with the State’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation
- Maintain the South Carolina PA License
Step 1. Choose Qualified Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
Applicants for PA degree programs need to keep two things in mind when making a selection: program admission requirements and accreditation. Most PA degree programs are offered at the graduate level and therefore require applicants to have obtained an acceptable score on the GREs (Graduate Record Examinations) and to have already completed an undergraduate degree. It is also recommended that applicants have some previous experience working or volunteering directly with patients in a clinical setting.
When it comes to having a bachelor degree, most PA programs will accept one in any field. However associated prerequisite courses for PA degrees have an emphasis on science, so it stands to reason that time will be saved on PA prereqs if the bachelor degree is in a science field such as:
- Public Health
- Medical Assistant
An essential part of PA graduate program selection is to ensure it meets the required accreditation for licensure in South Carolina. This means being certified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), and programs must also be approved by the Commission on Accredited Allied Health Education Programs or its successors.
Step 2. Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
Students can sign-up for the PANCE beginning three months before they graduate from their PA degree program. The PANCE is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which is the agency responsible for credentialing those who have successfully completed the exam as Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C). The NCCPA offers a number of $35 practice exams to help prepare students for the PANCE, which covers the body’s organ systems and their afflictions in a five-hour 300-question multiple-choice test offered four times a year. Once students have passed the PANCE they should arrange for their scores to be sent directly by the NCCPA to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation as part of an application.
Step 3. Licensure with the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation
PAs wanting to be able to practice legally in South Carolina will have to apply to the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. Candidates for licensure need to submit:
- Application Packet that includes:
- Application for Licensure
- Certification of PA to be sent to the candidate’s PA degree program and returned to the Department
- Copy of NCCPA Certification
- Three letters of recommendation- two must be from physicians and all must be submitted directly to the Department
- South Carolina PA Examination- an open book test over the South Carolina Physician Assistant Practice Act (SCPAPA)
- Criminal Background Check
- Physician’s Notification of Initial Employment- required before PAs can begin practicing
- $120 application fee
- $40 prescriptive authority fee
- Scope of Practice guidelines
Before being issued a final license PAs will have to appear for an interview. They will receive information about this after their application and fees have been processed, which usually takes at least 15 business days.
Step 4. Maintain the South Carolina PA License
PA Licenses are good for two years and must be renewed before they expire for a renewal fee of not more than $150. As part of the renewal process, PAs must maintain their NCCPA certification, which means completing 100 continuing medical education (CME) credits every two years and passing the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) every tenth year. Four of these CME credits must pertain to prescribing controlled substances. Renewal forms are mailed out every two years to PAs in South Carolina.
Whether it be learning more about CME credits, becoming acquainted with colleagues, or seeking advice and support, PAs in South Carolina may find it helpful to join professional organizations such as the South Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (SCAPA) where they can associate with like-minded practitioners.