Having completed physician assistant school and become licensed, physician assistants must turn their attention to the next stage of education. To maintain licensure, physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education, CME, every two years. The count starts running as soon as a physician assistant is certified. As the end of the two-year cycle approaches, physician assistants can choose to use credit obtained in the last two months for either the current cycle or the upcoming cycle. Continuing education must be tracked and continuing education certificates registered. Given the intensive amount of required CME, physician assistants are fortunate to enjoy a great number of opportunities. A wide range of topics are offered, including those that may be required by state licensing boards such as pharmacology, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence issues. Physician assistants may acquire credits designated for either physicians or physician assistants.
There are two types of CME credits, Category I and Category II. Category I credits come from national certification programs. Category II credits derive from elective continuing education options, including reading medical journals, attending promotional meetings offered by pharmaceutical companies, Internet research, and courses approved only for nursing credit. The type of category credit is identified on conference accreditation statements. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) tracks and audits Category I credits.
The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is a tremendous source of continuing education, offering a variety of types to fit varied needs. The AAPA offers home-study CME programs. After studying, physician assistants must pass a post-test with a score of 70% or greater to receive continuing education credit. To take advantage of networking and socialization with fellow physician assistants, the AAPA annual conference is a good resource. Webcasts from the conference are also available. The Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (JAAPA) provides eCase Challenges and Clinical Dialogues with post-tests through which physician assistants can also gain CME.
Continuing education is also available through other medical organizations, including theAmerican Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants. Certificate programs such asNeonatal Resuscitation Program, International Trauma Life Support,Advanced Wilderness Life Support, and the Army Flight Surgeon Course are all approved for Category I continuing medical education credit.
Certificates of attendance should be kept and filed to document continuing education hours. CME hours must be submitted directly to the NCCPA. Unrecorded hours do not count toward continued licensure. The NCCPA and state boards periodically select physician assistants to audit. CME records should be kept for the current cycle and the immediate prior cycle in case of audit.