RN to Physician Assistant Training and Degree Programs
There isn't a specific bridge program for RNs to become physician assistants (PAs). RNs can apply to and enroll in regular PA programs like any other student, though their nursing background can help them meet the prerequisites for PA school. Find out what you'd learn in a PA program, and get info on certification and licensure for physician assistants. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
How Can I Go From Being an RN to Becoming a Physician Assistant?
Because PA 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 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.
What Does a PA Program Involve?
The majority of accredited physician assistant training programs are offered at the master's degree level. However, associate and 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. To maintain certification, the NCCP requires that you complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years and pass a recertification exam every six years. Your state license might have different requirements for renewal, but usually includes continuing education and a fee.
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