PA Nomenclature

The abbreviations, acronyms and titles associated with the physician assistant profession and used in the literature over the past 35 years can be overwhelming and perplexing. As a historic website, we will use the terms and titles cited in the literature of the period. For example, in the early years an ‘s was used in the title for PAs – physician’s assistant or physician’s associate. For some, the ‘s conveyed the dependence of the PA on the physician while to others it understated the level of autonomy achieved by PAs in the practice of medicine. When a number of less rigorous training programs began using the generic term physician assistant for their students and graduates, many of the 2-year PA programs, modeled after the PA Program at Duke University, changed their titles to “Associate.” Over time PAs have been referred to as new health care practitioners, clinical or health associates, physician extenders, mid-level practitioners, and non-physician health care providers. In the 1980’s, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) recommended that graduates of AMA accredited programs refer to themselves as physician assistants and that legislation enacted by states use this terminology to reduce confusion. Physician assistant is the current term used to describe the profession.

In time, the Glossary will be expanded to include additional terms and organizations associated with the PA profession with links to more detailed historic, online information and illustrations. Refer to the Thesaurus for themes, keywords and people mentioned on this website.

AAPA

Established in 1968, the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is recognized as the national voice for PAs in medical and surgical specialties. Originally the organization was incorporated as the American Association of Physician's Assistants, then changed its name to the American Academy of Physician's Associates in June 1971 and again in February 1972 to the American Academy of Physician's Assistants. This was eventually dropped leaving the organization with its current title. The AAPA has a federated structure of 57 charter constituent chapters representing the interest of PAs in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the federal services comprised of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Public Health Service and Department of Veteran Affairs. The AAPA House of Delegates (HOD) meets annually to develop policy and procedures and adopt resolutions for the organization. For more information contact the AAPA at 2318 Mill Road, Suite 1300, Alexandria, VA 22314; phone (703) 836-2272; fax (703) 684-1924; email: aapa@aapa.org

AOR

The Assembly of Representatives (AOR) is the SAAAPA's legislative and policymaking body that meets once a year during the AAPA's Annual PA Conference. Each registered student society of the SAAAPA is eligible to send a representative to the AOR. The AOR establishes SAAAPA policy and elects the Student Board of Directors (SBOD). During the year, the AOR Representative is the primary information link between students, the SAAAPA and the AAPA. See SAAAPA for more information.

APAP

The Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP) was founded in 1972 by a group of concerned program faculty who saw a need to address the important issues of accreditation, certification and continuing education of physician assistants. The Association changed its name to the Physician Assistant Education Association in January 2006 to reflect its expanded array of services to member programs (see PAEA).

APPAP

The Association of Postgraduate Physician Assistant Programs (APPAP) was established by eight founding members in 1988 to assist in the development and organization of postgraduate curricula and provide advice to institutions interested in establishing advanced educational programs for PAs in various medical and surgical disciplines. The organization's roots can be traced to 1981 when J.Jeffrey Heinrich established a mail box in New Haven, CT which he maintained as a means of sharing information about current postgraduate educational opportunities. The APPAP became incorporated in 1996 in WV. APPAP member programs offer fellowships, residencies, and master's degree opportunities for graduates of accredited PA programs to advance their education. For more information contact the APPAP at 300 N. Washington St., Suite 710, Alexandria, VA 22314; phone (703) 778-5570; fax: (703) 548-5539; email: appap@appap.org

ARC-PA

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) approves and revises Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education, reviews applications for accreditation, appoints site visitors, awards accreditation, imposes sanctions and advises programs and institutions on accreditation issues. The governing body of the ARC-PA consists of representatives from seven participating health professional organizations. Since first adopted by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1971, the Standards have been revised periodically with the latest update in 2000. Originally called the Joint Review Committee (JRC) for Educational Programs for the Assistant to the Primary Care Physician, the ARC-PA made its recommendations to the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA), a national allied health-accrediting agency administered by the AMA. In 1994, the AMA helped the CAHEA to become an independent agency, known as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). After six years of membership, the ARC-PA decided to withdraw from the CAAHEP to become a freestanding accrediting organization. This occurred on January 1, 2001. For more information contact the ARC-PA at 12000 Findley Road, Suite 150, Johns Creek, GA 30097; phone (770) 476-1224; fax (770) 476-1738; email: John McCarty, Executive Director: johnmccarty@arc-pa.org

ARPA

The American Registry of Physician's Associates (ARPA) was incorporated in 1970 to encourage the training and to promote the activities of Physician's Associates. Those registered by the ARPA were entitled to refer to themselves as an RPA (Registered Physician's Associate) and were given an ARPA pin to wear on their clinical jackets. The ARPA was assimilated into the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP) in 1972, and the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) assumed its registration functions in 1975. The ARPA no longer exists as an organization.

ERF

The Education and Research Foundation was established by the AAPA in 1980 to support the educational and research needs of the profession. Its name was later changed to the Physician Assistant Foundation (PAF). See PAF for more information.

HOD

The House of Delegates (HOD) establishes the policies that are implemented by Board of Directors (BOD) of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). The HOD meets annually prior to the Annual Physician Assistant Conference. The House of Delegates consists of representatives from the chartered chapters, the officially recognized specialty organizations, the Caucus Congress, the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA) and the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP).

NAPA

The Naval Association of Physician Assistants (NAPA) was founded in 1974 to represent and promote the interest of Navy PAs. It is a member of the Federal Services Congress (FSC) and a constituent charter chapter of the AAPA. See FSC and AAPA for more information.

NCCPA

After being formally structured and organized in 1974, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) was incorporated and opened offices in Atlanta, Georgia in 1975. NCCPA is the only credentialing organization for physician assistants in the United States, and is dedicated to assuring the public that certified physician assistants meet established standards of knowledge and clinical skills upon entry into practice and throughout their careers. Its Board of Directors includes appointees from 14 participating organizations, as well as three members-at-large. After passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), physician assistants are issued an NCCPA certificate, entitling them to the use of the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) designation until the expiration date printed on the certificate (approximately two years). To remain certified, PAs must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and complete the Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam (PANRE) every six years. For more information contact the NCCPA at 12000 Findley Rd., Suite 100, Johns Creek, GA 30097; phone: (678) 417-8100; fax: (678) 417-8135; email: nccpa@nccpa.net.

PA-C

The Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) is a title that can be used by PAs who have obtained and maintained national certification requirements established by the NCCPA. It is a mark of professional accomplishment, indicating the achievement and maintenance of established levels of knowledge and clinical skills. The PA-C credential is widely recognized within the medical professions and is required in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the American territories for licensure or registration as a physician assistant. See NCCPA for more details.

PAEA

The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) officially adopted its new name in January 2006, after more than 30 years of existence as the Association of Physician Assistant Programs (APAP). PAEA is the only national organization in the United States representing physician assistant (PA) educational programs. Its mission is to pursue excellence, foster faculty development, advance the body of knowledge that defines quality education and patient-centered care, and promote diversity in all aspects of physician assistant education. Currently, 157 PA programs are members of the PAEA. For more information contact the PAEA at 300 N. Washington Street, Suite 710, Alexandria, VA 22314; phone: (703) 548-5538; fax: (703) 548-5539; email: info@PAEAonline.org

PA Foundation

Established in 1980 as the Education and Research Foundation, and later changing its name, the Physician Assistant Foundation (PA Foundation) is the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).

PANCE

To attain their initial certification and the PA-C designation, graduates of ARC-PA accredited programs must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Administered almost year-round by the NCCPA, PANCE is a computer-based, multiple-choice test comprised of 300 questions that assess general medical and surgical knowledge. See NCCPA for more information.

PANRE

To maintain NCCPA certification, PA certificate holders must pass the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Examination (PANRE) before their certificate expires at the end of the sixth year of their certification maintenance cycle. The examination is comprised of 240 multiple-choice questions designed to assess general medical and surgical knowledge. Eligible candidates may take the exam as early as year five in their certification maintenance cycle, giving them as many as four attempts to pass the PANRE (two in their fifth year and two in their sixth year of their certification cycle) in case of failure. See NCCPA for more Information.

Pathway II

Prior to 2010, NCCPA offered, in addition to the PANRE, another way for PA-C designees to be recertified. This process was known as Pathway II. Both PANRE and Pathway II required completion of a 300 question multiple-choice examination designed to assess general medical and surgical knowledge, but there were several differences - the PANRE was computer-based while the Pathway II examination was an open-book examination that could be taken at home with use of reference materials. To be eligible for Pathway II, PA-C designees were also required to meet an additional requirement - the accumulation of 100 points through completion of activities within nine categories of education and experiential Activities. Pathway II was administered for the last time in 2010.

PHSAPA

The Public Health Service Academy of Physician Assistants (PHSAPA) promotes the Physician Assistant concept within the Public Health Service and represents the views of PHS PAs as a member of the Federal Services Congress (FSC) and as a constituent chapter of the AAPA. See FSC and AAPA for more information.

SAAAPA

The Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (SAAAPA) has its own structure within the AAPA and includes representation from each PA Program's student society. Students have always been encouraged to play an active role in the AAPA since its founding in 1968. They were among the first to organize and share information with their peers. Each registered student society is represented in the Assembly of Representatives (AOR), the SAAPA's legislative and policymaking body. The SAAPA also has representation in the AAPA House of Delegates (HOD). Currently, there are about 100 registered student society members of the SAAAPA. For more information contact the SAAAPA at 2318 Mill Road, Suite 1300, Alexandria, VA 22313; phone: (703) 836-2272; fax (703) 684-1924; email: students@aapa.org.

SAFPA

The Society of Air Force Physician Assistants (SAFPA) is a professional organization serving the needs of active duty, retired and reserve Air Force physician assistants. It is a member of the Federal Services Congress (FSC) and a constituent chapter of the AAPA. See FSC and AAPA for more information.

SAPA

The Society of Army Physician Assistants (SAPA) was organized in 1976 and became a constituent chapter of the AAPA in 1977. It is a civilian organization that represents and supports the U.S. Army Physician Assistant, including former, active, retired, reserve and National Guard PAs. The SAPA provides a forum for discussion and representation to the AAPA and the Federal Services Congress (FSC). See FSC and AAPA for more information.

VAPAA

Founded in 1982, the Veterans Affairs Physician Assistant Association (VAPAA) is a non-profit professional and educational organization dedicated to promoting the interests of physician assistants employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 1989, VAPAA was chartered as a constituent chapter of the AAPA. It is also a member of the Federal Services Congress (FSC). See FSC and AAPA for more information.