How to Become a Physician Assistant in Virginia
Physician assistants working in Virginia save lives on a daily basis. Whether through offering tips on improving healthy living, ordering preventative tests and screenings, conducting physical exams or assisting directly in surgery, PAs in the Old Dominion State make a marked contribution to its healthcare system. Last year the average salary of PAs in the state was $82,150 and their numbers are projected to grow as the already one-million-and-counting population over 65 continues to increase. Those interested in discovering more about how to become a physician assistant in Virginia can browse through the following steps:
- Find Accredited Virginia Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
- Apply for a PA License with the Virginia Board of Medicine
- Renew the Virginia PA License as Needed
Step 1. Accredited Virginia Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
There are two main determining factors when choosing a Virginia physician assistant program for licensure: its admission requirements and accreditation. As a general rule PA programs require or strongly prefer candidates with:
- Good grade point average
- Hands-on experience working with patients in the healthcare industry
- Bachelor’s degree
Bachelor degrees can be in any subject, and because PA prerequisite courses have a science emphasis, undergraduate degrees in the following majors will also work towards fulfilling PA prereqs:
- Medical Assistant
- Public Health
To become licensed in Virginia, students must graduate from PA programs that are approved by American Medical Association (AMA) and the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
Step 2. Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
The PANCE is a five-hour test whose passage is required for all PAs hoping to practice in Virginia. The exam is sponsored by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which awards successful candidates with the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) credential. Covering the major organ systems and their maladies, students can register for the $475 PANCE starting three months before they graduate from their PA degree program. The exam is offered at testing locations throughout Virginia where students can complete its 300 multiple-choice questions offered in a computer format.
Step 3. Apply for a PA License with the Virginia Board of Medicine
A complete application for a PA License to the Virginia Board of Medicine will include:
- Licensure Application
- $130 application fee
- Certificate of PA Program Education to be completed by the institution and sent to the Board
- PANCE scores and PA-C to be sent by the NCCPA to the Board
Prospective PAs may also want to submit the following with their application:
- $15 Application for PA Practice, includes:
- Scope of Practice
- Supervising Hospital/Physician
- Request for Prescriptive Authority
- Prescriptive Authority Request
Applications are usually processed in six to eight weeks.
Step 4. Renew the Virginia PA License
PAs will need to renew their Virginia license every two years in their birth month of odd-numbered years. This can be accomplished online or by completing a paper renewal form. There is a $135 renewal fee, and PAs must maintain their NCCPA certification in order to renew their Virginia license. This involves completing 100 credits of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and passing an exam similar to the PANCE, known as the PANRE or Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam, every tenth year.
As their careers progress, many PAs find it beneficial to join a professional organization made up of their colleagues where they can stay up to date in the latest field innovations, network with coworkers, and get the latest PA news. One such association is the Virginia Academy of Physician Assistants (VAPA).