NCCPA Launches CAQ Program for PAs in 5 Specialties

Carrie Vaughan, 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.

Carrie Vaughan Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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