Opportunities for recognition exist following physician assistant school. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) implements the Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQ) recognition program. CAQs are meant to recognize and document advanced physician assistant training and skills beyond initial certification. Currently, the specializations that qualify for CAQ are cardiovascular/thoracic surgery, emergency medicine, nephrology, orthopedic surgery, and psychiatry. Physician assistants can, as long as they meet the requirements for each, achieve multiple CAQs. CAQs are valid for six years, at which time the certificate requirements can be met again.
Physician assistants must be certified to earn a CAQ. A $100 fee is paid with submission of the non-exam requirement: specialty continuing medical education, experience, and procedures/patient cases. One-hundred fifty hours of Category I CME in the specialty must have been earned in the preceding six years, 50 or more of those hours within the last two years. Applicants for the CAQ must show specified work hours within their specialty over the prior six years and must submit a patient case that demonstrates their expertise in their specialty with an attestation from a supervising physician.
The fee for the CAQ exam is $250. The exam is only offered one day in September at Pearson VUE centers and contains 120 multiple-choice questions related to the specialty. Currently, there are no practice exams. The exam can be retaken if necessary. Once the non-exam requirements are approved and the CAQ exam passed, physician assistants are awarded a Certificate of Added Qualifications.