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NCCPA Launches CAQ Program for PAs in 5 Specialties

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, August 10, 2011

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) has launched a certificate of added qualifications (CAQ) program for certified physician assistants (PA) practicing in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, nephrology, orthopedic surgery, and psychiatry.

The nation could face a shortage of up to 150,000 physicians in the next 15 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. One solution to help bridge this workforce shortage is to enable healthcare professionals such as nurse practitioners and PAs to work at their highest capability.

PAs are certified and licensed healthcare professionals who practice medicine as part of a healthcare team under the direction of a physician. This new CAQ program will help give physicians and executives hiring PAs added confidence in the PAs' knowledge and capabilities in these five specialty areas, thus improving their chances for employment.

"The CAQ recognition program was developed in response to PAs and physician groups that approached us from two different perspectives," said Janet J. Lathrop, MBA, president and CEO of the NCCPA. "One desire was to have some documentation to be able to show the hiring physician that they, as PAs, were in fact knowledgeable in certain specialty areas." The second desire was "to give the hiring physicians—this was especially true in emergency medicine—the assurance that these PAs had the experience in ED medicine to come and jump in at a level of acuity a little bit higher than the average person," she explains.

By earning a CAQ, PAs can build on their NCCPA generalist certification, which is a basic prerequisite for the voluntary CAQ program. The first CAQ exams will be administered in September. In order to complete the CAQ program, PAs must meet licensure, education, experience, and exam requirements.

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2 comments on "NCCPA Launches CAQ Program for PAs in 5 Specialties"


Alex (8/11/2011 at 6:48 PM)
The article says " PAs must meet licensure, education, experience, and exam requirements". I am currently in PA school and my question is where can I learn more about these criteria?

Margaret Allen, PA-C (8/11/2011 at 11:16 AM)
And once again, no CAQ for PAs practicing in Family Medicine. Is it not a specialty? Is it not where our roots are? Do we not have to "prove" our competency just as equally as our colleagues in cardiology and emergency medicine? Family Medicine should have been the first specialty to receive this possibly-bogus "extra" qualification. Perhaps this is just a nice little earner for the NCCPA, and they recognize that those of us on the front lines in family and community medicine are not well enough paid to buy this certificate.