Physician Assistant Professional Organizations

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is the accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public and PA profession by defining the standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs to ensure their compliance with those standards. Accreditation is a process of quality assurance that determines whether the program meets established standards for function, structure, and performance. Accreditation of PA programs was created in the early 1970s under the auspices of the American Medical Association. The groups that have accredited PA programs have been many, but in 2000 the ARC-PA was constituted as an independent organization and the Standards for accreditation were created. Graduation from an ARC-PA-accredited program is required for NCCPA PANCE eligibility and for licensure or registration in all states.  The ARC-PA’s sister organization for medicine is the AMA and AAMC’s Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

There are several categories of accreditation. Accreditation can be provisional, continuing, probational, withdrawn, or withheld. As of March 2019, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Marshall B. Ketchum University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Marshall B. Ketchum University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards. Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be March 2029. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The American Academy of PAs (AAPA)

The American Academy of PAs (AAPA) is the national organization that represents physician assistants/associates in all specialties and all employment settings. Founded in 1968, the Academy has a federated structure of 57 chartered chapters representing PAs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the federal services. Its membership also includes PA students and supporters of the profession. The AAPA advocates for the PA profession by lobbying for improvements in the utilization of PAs in federal health care delivery systems, support of PA education including the National Health Service Corps scholarships, and state legislation that governs PA practice.  The AAPA has also been an active voice for our profession on issues related to education and certification.  For a frame of reference, the AAPA is analogous to the physician-advocacy organization the American Medical Association (AMA).

The California Academy of PAs (CAPA)

The Mission of the California Academy of PAs is to represent and serve PAs statewide. As an advocate of its members for quality healthcare and for their valued, unique alliance with collaborating physicians, CAPA will enhance, educate, and empower PAs for the ultimate benefit of their patients.  With over 13,000 PAs, California is seeing the PA profession grow and PAs are becoming involved in every aspect of health care. CAPA’s purpose is to represent the interests of California PAs. For a frame of reference, CAPA is analogous to the physician advocacy organization, the California Medical Association (CMA).

The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)

The PAEA was founded in 1972 by Alfred Sadler and Thomas Piemme, two physician educators who understood the need for an educational organization that was responsible for aligning and standardizing the education of the PA. Initially, the PAEA was part of the AAPA and was called the Association of PA Programs (APAP).  In 2005, the APAP membership voted to change the name to Physician Assistant Education Association and moved the organization to leadership independent of the AAPA. The PAEA is the equivalent of the physician group, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)

The NCCPA was developed by David Glazer, Alfred Sadler, and Thomas Piemme to create the PA national certification examination. Its Board members include physician representatives from medicine and surgery, the PA profession, and the public. The early founders of the profession believed that professional legitimacy could be established if rigorous certification standards were maintained. Thus, in the early 1970s, the PA profession started with a 6-year certification cycle. Initially, PAs were expected to pass a generalist multiple-choice examination (PANCE) and clinical skills encounter, obtain 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years, and pass a multiple-choice exam at year ten (PANRE) or the longitudinal assessment (PANRE-LA). The clinical skills encounter was stopped in the late 1990s because of issues with inter-rater reliability and methodology.

In 2012, the NCCPA Board of Directors voted to change the certification requirements and cycle.  PAs are required to pass the PANCE exam and complete 100 hours of CME every two years. In year 10, they must also pass a multiple-choice examination. The NCCPA is similar to the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).