If you are a physician assistant (PA), you must participate in a 10 year certification of maintenance process that includes five two-year cycles. The CME requirements for PAs are highly specific and rigid, so it will serve you well to know what they are so you can schedule activities regularly.
The fact of the matter is that healthcare cannot grow and survive without advanced level practitioners. As the physician shortage becomes very real, physician assistants are stepping in to provide essential patient care and fill gaps that might otherwise threaten the continuum of care. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) reports that in 2018, there were 131,152 certified physician assistants in the United States, working in nearly every specialty and healthcare setting. “PAs are active members of the specialty practice workforce, across all disciplines and the numbers are increasing”, the organization said. The statistics bear that out:
- Family Medicine/General Practice: 19.2%
- Emergency Medicine: 13.0%
- Orthopedic Surgery: 10.8%
- Surgical subspecialties such as cardiothoracic, colorectal, gynecology and obstetrics, gynecologic oncology, neurosurgery, ophthalmic, oral/maxillofacial, orthopedic, otorhinolaryngology, pediatric, plastic and maxillofacial, urologic and vascular: 21.5%
As an essential member of the healthcare workforce, it’s important that you maintain your certification.
Here is what you need to know:
CME Requirements for Physician Assistants
First, and most importantly, know your certification window. That is the all-important date because all CME requirements for PAs must be obtained within that time frame. Once you know what it is, you can schedule your CMEs regularly, log them on time, and ensure that your maintenance of certification (MOC) is on track.
The NCCPA provides the following guidance:
- Your CME earning and logging window begins May 1 of the year your current certification was issued. It continues through December 31 of the certification expiration year. (For example, PA-C designees whose certification expires in 2020 must have earned their CME between May 1, 2018 and December 31, 2020.)
How many CME credits does a physician assistant need?
The NCCPA details on accumulating CMEs during the specific cycles are as follows:
- During each two-year cycle, you must earn and log at least 100 CME credits online
- At least 50 must be Category 1 CME credits
- The remaining 50 credits can be Category 1, Category 2 or a combination of both.
- Two types of Category 1 CME are self-assessment CME and PI-CME. They are not required, but the NCCPA say they “recognize the value of these very interactive types of CME, and will weight these types of CME more heavily.”
- They will award 50% additional credit for all activities designated for self-assessment Category 1 CME credit. For example, a self-assessment activity worth 10 credits will be converted to 15 credits by NCCPA).
- Also, the first 20 PI-CME credits logged during every two-year cycle will be doubled when logged with NCCPA.
Document Your CME Activities!
It’s up to you to document your CMEs. The NCCPA requires that you document CMEs online. It’s a detailed but fairly straightforward process. Remember, if it’s not documented online, it didn’t happen in the eyes of the NCCPA. Make sure you pay attention to this detail.
In addition, the NCCPA cautions: “You should keep your Category 1 CME documentation for your current CME cycle and your last CME cycle. For example, if you are currently on a 2018-2020 CME cycle you would need to keep that documentation and the 2016-2018 CME cycle documentation. We do not audit Category 2 CME. This is the policy for NCCPA, not the state medical boards. You will need to check with your state medical board regarding their auditing requirements.”
Earn Category 1 CME Online with BoardVitals
BoardVitals offers online CME activities where physician assistants can earn up to 100 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s) accredited by the ACCME. Earn CME credits by answering case-style questions and detailed rationales. Start by choosing from their extensive list of more than 30 specialties. If you have an employer-provided CME allowance, you can build a custom CME bundle with BoardVitals CME Pro Plus and get up to $2,500 in an Amazon or Apple gift card to use to further your education.
It can seem daunting to maintain your certification and complete the CME requirements for PAs, but a planned, documented approach can keep the process under control. Make CMEs part of your regular schedule and accumulate them regularly over the course of the year. Healthcare and patients need you, so maintaining your certification is of great importance.