How to Become a Physician Assistant in West Virginia
West Virginia has a higher-than-average amount of seniors over the age of 65 at 16.8 percent, and combined with the growing demand for rural health care, the need for physician assistants in the Mountain State is steady. The relative high number of its citizens over 65 helps to account for West Virginia’s markedly higher rates of mortality from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases when compared with the rest of the nation, although the fact that 68 percent of all adults in the state are either overweight or obese does not help matters. These are just some of the challenges faced by physician assistants, who work on a daily basis to improve the lives of local people in their communities. The process of how to become a physician assistant in West Virginia involves four steps:
- Research West Virginia Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
- Apply for a PA License with the West Virginia Board of Medicine
- Maintain the West Virginia State PA License
Step 1. Research West Virginia Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
During the process of researching West Virginia physician assistant programs for licensure, students will encounter a large amount of information. Two important aspects of potential PA programs candidates should filter out are the admission requirements and program accreditations. Typical requirements include:
- Having clinical experience with direct patient care
- Good GPA
- Bachelor degree in any subject, with the following also helping to eliminate PA prerequisites:
- Medical Assistant
West Virginia also requires its PA License applicants to possess a bachelor degree as well as a PA degree from a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or its successors.
Step 2. Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
The PANCE is a five-hour computer-based 300-multiple-choice-question exam which students can register for beginning 90 days before their PA degree program ends. The PANCE is sponsored by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), which is the awarding agency of the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) credential for students who successfully complete the test. The PANCE itself includes an evaluation of the student’s knowledge in regards to:
- Musculoskeletal system
- Cardiovascular system
- Reproductive system
- Making most-likely diagnoses
- Performing physical exams
The NCCPA offers several practice exams available on its website for $35.
Step 3. Apply for a PA License with the West Virginia Board of Medicine
Candidates who have passed the PANCE may then apply for a state PA License with the West Virginia Board of Medicine. A complete application includes:
- $250 application fee
- National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Self-Query
- Application for Licensure
- Proposed Employment Information
- Education verification to be sent by the PA’s degree program institution directly to the Board
- Character reference from a practicing physician
- Proof of NCCPA certification (PA-C)
PAs must also provide evidence of completion of at least three hours of drug diversion training and the prescribing of controlled substances before being granted prescription privileges.
Step 4. Maintain the West Virginia PA License
PA Licenses need to be renewed by March 31st of odd-numbered years, their expiration date. This can be accomplished by filling out a renewal form, paying a $150 renewal fee, and providing proof of at least 100 hours of continuing medical education. PAs can also maintain their NCCPA license and submit a copy of this to fulfill the continuing education requirement.
As their practice expands and client lists grow PAs may find it beneficial to join a professional association where they can get the latest insights in their career field and network with their colleagues. One such association is the West Virginia Association of Physician Assistants (WVAPA). Last year PAs in West Virginia earned an average annual salary of $89,360.