RN to Physician Assistant Training and Degree Programs
There isn't a specific RN to physician assistant bridge program, such as BSN to physician assistant. However, RNs can enroll in regular PA programs, and their nursing background can help them meet the prerequisites for PA school. Read on to learn about prerequisites, common curricula, and licensure for physician assistants.
Are There RN to PA Programs Available?
Because PA (physician assistant) programs typically require that applicants have clinical experience involving direct patient care, you could earn your degree and license in nursing before applying. Another advantage of becoming an RN (registered nurse) prior to entering a PA program is that Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs typically include some PA program prerequisite courses, such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, organic chemistry, psychology and statistics. However, in general, PA programs are not tailored specifically to RNs.
As a PA, you'll have more responsibility than you do as an RN, and you'll perform many of the same duties that a physician would. You'll usually work under the supervision of a licensed doctor to examine patients, make diagnoses, order lab tests, counsel patients and provide treatments. You might also be allowed to prescribe certain treatments. Even though you'll work under a physician, you could work independently and confer with your supervising physician periodically.
|Prerequisites||Clinical experience, degree and license in nursing, completion of required courses.|
|Curriculum||Lecture and lab-based courses that cover clinical medicine, pharmacology, and medical ethics.|
|Licensing Requirements||State-administered licenses are required in all states, through the PANCE exam.|
What Does a PA Program Involve?
The majority of accredited physician assistant training programs are offered at the master's degree level. However, bachelor's degrees as well as certificate programs exist in physician assisting. You can also find some programs online, though these might last longer than a traditional on-campus program. PA programs are designed to prepare you for leadership roles in healthcare.
Once admitted to a program, you'll participate in lecture and laboratory course as well as complete clinical rotations. Your curriculum will usually involve courses in clinical medicine, pharmacology, patient health assessment, medical ethics and diagnostic methods. Your clinical rotations provide practical training in concepts you learn in the classroom. You could complete rotations in family medicine, pediatrics, women's health, surgery and emergency medicine.
Do I Need Certification or Licensure?
You must be licensed to practice as a PA in any state. You'll need to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The exam is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCP), which offers testing sites throughout the U.S. According to the NCCP, you must graduate from an accredited program to be eligible to take the PANCE (www.nccpa.net). In addition, your state could have other requirements you'll need to meet for licensure.
Passing the PANCE also qualifies you to use the Physician Assistant - Certified (PA-C) designation.
Maintaining Certification and Licensure
To maintain certification, the NCCP requires that you complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years and pass a recertification exam every ten years. Approximately ten weeks before the expiration of your license, a renewal notice will be sent to you. Practicing on an expired license is illegal and can lead to disciplinary action against your license. Your state license might have different requirements for renewal, but usually includes continuing education and a fee.