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NCCPA Update on Board Certification and Title Change Terminology


Earlier this year, NCCPA’s Board of Directors examined the use of the term Board Certification when describing the certifying process PAs complete after graduating from an accredited PA program, passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination® (PANCE) and maintaining NCCPA certification. Reference to PANCE as “the boards” and NCCPA certification as “board certification” has been in use informally for decades and is routinely cited in credentialing documents. NCCPA took a deliberate look at the use of the term “board certification” and concluded that the terminology aligns closely with NCCPA’s certification process and the generalist credential awarded.

In May 2022, NCCPA’s Board of Directors approved the use of the term Board Certification when referring to PANCE, PANRE, the PA-C credential, and NCCPA Certification where appropriate. This terminology more definitively represents and communicates the rigorous process PAs engage in to demonstrate medical knowledge, clinical skills and competencies, and the generalist credential earned by all NCCPA Certified PAs upon entry to the profession and maintained throughout their careers. NCCPA also updated its Code of Conduct to make clear that PA-Cs must not use the term “board certified” to convey or describe specialty certification. Since the Summer of 2022, NCCPA has been working to integrate the “board certified” terminology throughout its policies, documentation, and messaging, as will become apparent over the upcoming months.

Additionally, NCCPA acknowledges the May 2021 decision by the AAPA House of Delegates to change the name of the profession from “physician assistant” to “physician associate.” PA practice and licensure, including the name of the profession and the credential that is required for initial licensure, are regulated by state and federal regulations. As illustrated in AAPA’s title change guidance, PAs are cautioned against utilizing a professional title that is inconsistent with state regulation. NCCPA wants to ensure that no PA is prevented from practicing owing to a discrepancy between the title of their certification, the credential awarded, or the certifying body, and the title referenced in statute and regulation. NCCPA has adopted policies that treat the titles “physician assistant,” “physician associate,” and “PA” as equivalent and synonymous and is updating its policies, published guidance, and publications to reflect that. Finally, NCCPA’s policies applicable to “PAs,” “physician assistants,” or “physician associates” shall apply to any Board Certified PA or certifying PA, regardless of that individual PA’s preferred or assigned title.

For more information see the NCCPA FAQ on board certification and title change.