Washington Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure

How to Become a Physician Assistant in Washington

Physician assistants working in Washington State are some of the nation’s highest on-average paid practitioners in the field, last year earning a mean salary of $103,890. Occupational projections continue to be optimistic for PAs in the Evergreen State, which added 260 more positions in the profession than estimated for 2012. As Washington’s number of citizens over 65 approaches one million and healthcare demands continue to grow statewide, so does the need for qualified physician assistants. From counseling their patients on proper dietary and exercise habits – more than 62 percent of Washingtonians are overweight or obese – to assisting in surgery, PAs make a daily contribution to the well-being of their local communities. Current or former students who are considering a career in the field can consult the following steps on how to become a physician assistant in Washington:

  1. Research Washington Physician Assistant Programs for Licensur
  2. Gain NCCPA Certification
  3. Apply for Licensure with the Washington Department of Health
  4. Renew Washington PA License as Needed

Step 1. Research Washington Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure

When researching Washington physician assistant programs for licensure, there are two important things to look for: the program’s admission requirements and its accreditation. In Washington students must graduate from a PA program that is approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Admission requirements vary among programs, but some general standards are:

  • Previous clinical experience is either strongly preferred or required
  • Having a good grade point average, especially in PA program prerequisites
  • Already possessing any bachelor’s degree, with the following serving to also eliminate some PA prereqs:
    • Medical Assistant
    • Nursing
    • Health
    • Organic Chemistry

Step 2. Gain NCCPA Certification

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is in charge of the test all hopeful PAs in Washington must pass, the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). This exam covers the body’s main organ systems and the diagnosis of their associated afflictions. It is comprised of 300 multiple-choice questions to be completed over the course of five hours. Students can register for the PANCE for a $475 fee starting 90 days before their PA degree program is scheduled to end. Passing the PANCE will earn a student the NCCPA credential of Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C). Practice exams are available online, as is the nearest testing location.

Step 3. Apply to the Washington Department of Health

The Washington Department of Health and the Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC) are the responsible agencies for granting a PA License application after ensuring it meets the qualification standards and is complete. Average processing time is 4-6 weeks and a complete application packet will include:

  • $116 license application fee
  • Office privilege verification
  • Attestation of HIV/AIDS training
  • Verification of PA program graduation and transcripts must be sent by the appropriate institution directly to the MQAC
  • Delegation Agreement
  • Personal Data
  • Personal Attestation about having read RCW 18.130.170 and RCW 18.130.180

Once candidates have been approved for a license they will need to submit a Practice Plan before they may begin legally working.

Step 4. Renew the Washington PA License

PA Licenses are on a two-year renewal cycle and this can be done online or with a paper renewal application. There is a $202 renewal fee along with a continuing medical education (CME) requirement of 100 hours, with a minimum of 40 of those hours at the Category I level. If PAs maintain their NCCPA certification this will also fulfill the state CME requirement. For more information on CME credits, networking with colleagues, or staying up with the latest professional news, PAs can join a professional association such as the Washington Academy of Physician Assistants (WAPA).

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