Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Certification Process for PAs

New Certification Process for PAs 

It's a new year, and whether fortunately, or unfortunately (i'll let you make that opinion yourself), there is a new certification process in 2014 for physician assistants. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) originally instituted the recertification exam for PAs in the 1980s, and this is the first major change since then. The new process includes a switch from a 6 year recertification process to a 10 year certification process. These changes are taking place for three groups of PAs:

  1. People certified for the first time (probably YOU, students reading this blog)
  2. People certified AGAIN after a lapse in certification (have you left practice for a few years due to medical leave of absence? possibly a leave of absence for childcare reasons?)
  3. People who complete a 6-year certification maintenance cycle in 2014
If you don't fit any of these categories, you will transition to the 10 year cycle as you complete the 6-year certification maintenance process already in progress. 

What's the Same?

  • Still required to earn/log 100 CME credits during every "2-year" CME log cycle
    • Those 100 CME credits must include 50+ Category 1 credits
  • PANRE exam still at the end of the process

New Updates

  • 5 CME logging cycles
    • During first 4 cycles - at least 20 of 50 required Category 1 credits must be earned through performance improvement (PI) CME and/or self-assessment CME
    • During the 5th cycle - CME activities can be directed in any way to prepare for the PANRE 
  • Although you can gain a mixture of PI and self-assessment CME in your first 4 cycles - yes, it's true, you can mix and match them, as long as you reach your minimum of 20/50 requirement for each cycle, there is one more catch! 
      • So, if you want, you can just plan on doing 20 hours of PI-CME your first two cycles and then next two cycles, make sure you do self-assessment CME to reach this goal! 
      • Confusing? NCCPA is releasing a web application to track your hours, don't worry!

Self-Assessment vs. Performance Improvement (PI)

So, what's the big deal about all of these big terms no one knows anything about? Self-assessment CME's are designed to determine what you know in knowledge/skill in a particular area AND what you DON'T know, then focus in on those areas where you can improve. Self-assessment begins with an activity to test yourself providing information with results at the end -things your employer, NCCPA, malpractice insurance, nor patients can see - so don't worry! Most are offered online and are self-paced. 

Performance improvement CME's focuses on improving practice and patient outcomes directly. In this manner, you are given the framework to look upon some aspect of your practice, implement a change for improvement, and then identify impacts of that change. You're welcome to work with other PAs and physicians and as long as every PA participates with equal effort, everyone can gain credit for the PI-CME. Some PAs are worried that activities like this may require some forethought. This is NOT an activity you can complete overnight, you procrastinators! 

What can we take away?

We won't have to recertify ourselves as often, but with freedom comes restriction. We're restricted by the rules in the amounts and types of CME credits we must obtain and by when we must obtain them, but as the tools are provided to get us to our destination, the process should be relatively flawless. The self-assessment and performance improvement CME's will ensure that practicing PAs are up-to-date on their skills and knowledge and that patient satisfaction is improving within the clinic/OR. The PI may be challenging, but it also ensures that PAs are constantly improving their practice because they must actively seek the projects that need attention, provide an improvement, and observe the changes. Overall, these updates can only help. 

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