Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants

If you are a physician assistant (PA) with an interest in specializing in emergency medicine, or an aspiring PA who already knows the emergency medicine specialty is of interest to you, you may be interested in a certification of added qualifications (CAQ) in emergency medicine. While a CAQ is not needed for you to start practicing in this area of the field, it can help you stand out among other PAs in the specialty, as it is an indicator that you have proven your knowledge and experience in emergency medicine. Interested? You will want to start making a plan to earn the necessary experience, continuing education, and other requirements needed to qualify for this credential. This guide will help you understand what you need to do in order to earn your CAQ in emergency medicine so that you can get on the right track.

What is a Certificate of Added Qualifications?

A CAQ from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is a credential that indicates that a physician assistant has gone above and beyond to demonstrate knowledge and experience in a specialty of medicine. This credential is earned after becoming a PA-C, so anyone who earns it will still come from a generalist background and have a knowledge base in primary care. Because the NCCPA does not want hospitals and other places of PA employment making quick changes to their PA credentialing requirements, this is a voluntary certification that allows those who earn it to stand out within their specialty.

How to Earn an Emergency Medicine Certificate of Added Qualifications as a Physician Assistant (PA)

Looking to become a CAQ in emergency medicine? Here are some comment steps to pursue the emergency medicine CAQ:

Step 1: Become a Certified Physician Assistant 

Becoming a PA is a natural first step in the process of becoming a specialized PA. In order to start the process of applying for specialization, you must have valid, unrestricted licenses in all the jurisdictions you are licensed to practice in. Not a physician assistant yet? learn more about how to become a licensed PA.

Step 2: Earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) Credits

You will need to earn 75 credits related to emergency medicine in order to qualify for the related CAQ. These will need to be earned within six years of sitting for the emergency medicine specialty exam, and 25 of the credits will need to be earned in the two most recent years. The credits will need to be Category I and you will need to use your best judgment to choose credits related to emergency medicine (you may be audited to ensure relevance of your credits). These credits should include a comprehensive course in emergency medicine as well as courses in pediatric advanced life support, advanced trauma life support, and an airway course. These credits can also go towards general PA certification renewal.

Step 3: Earn Enough Experience Working in Emergency Medicine as a PA

At the same time that you are earning CME credits for your emergency medicine CAQ, you will need to ensure that enough of the work that you are doing as a PA is in the area of emergency medicine. You will be required to have practiced 4,000 hours (two full years worth of work) in emergency medicine in the six years prior to your attestation. You may get audited during the certification process, so make sure you can supply proof of this work.

A leader in your profession will need to attest that you have the knowledge, skills, and understanding needed to practice in the specialty, so make sure as you work that you gain experience in all facets of the specialty. This would include the following for emergency medicine, according to the NCCPA emergency medicine CAQ:

  • Invasive airway management, including intubation, capnometry, mechanical ventilation, and non-invasive ventilatory management
  • Local, digital, and procedural anesthesia, as well as conscious sedation
  • Advanced wound management, including incision, drainage, debridement, and closure
  • Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures:
    • Lumbar puncture
    • Aspiration of soft tissue and joints
    • Slit lamp examination
    • Tonometry
    • Thoracentesis
    • Thoracostomy
    • Epistaxis control
    • Interpretation of electrocardiographic
    • Cardioversion and defibrillation
    • Cardiac pacing
    • Cervical spine clearance
    • Management of fractures and dislocations
  • Hemodynamic techniques, including intraosseous infusion, arterial access, and central and peripheral venous access
  • Interpretation of chest x rays, films, MRIs, and CT scans
  • Fluid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation¬†

Check with the NCCPA emergency medicine CAQ to make sure you are best prepared to get all the relevant experience you need.

Step 4: Take the Emergency Medicine Specialty Exam

You can sit for the specialty exam in emergency medicine once the rest of your requirements for the certificate have been completed. The test is multiple choice, with 120 questions. You can take the test in the spring and fall at a Pearson VUE test center.

It costs $250 to take the CAQ exam.

Step 5: Submit Attestation that You Meet the Procedures and Patient Case Requirement

A qualifying professional in the field (a physician, senior PA, or post graduate director of a physician or PA program) must provide an attestation stating that you have performed all procedure and patient requirements listed in step 3 and that you have the understanding that you need to practice in the field. You will need to submit this document within 90 days of receiving your CAQ exam score.

Step 6: Start the CAQ Application Process

Once you have completed at least one component for certification (CME credits, experience, procedure and patient case attestation, or exam), you are able to start applying for certification, even if it will take you some time to have the rest of the components. You can also wait to initiate this process once you have completed all the requirements. Once you begin this process and pay the $100 fee, you will need to finish the emergency medicine CAQ application process within six years.

Why Earn a CAQ in Emergency Medicine?

PAs with CAQ qualifications report a variety of benefits, according to survey information about the CAQ from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA):

Increased Scope

Six in ten CAQs expect that certification will lead to more responsibility in their role.

Higher Pay

Most PAs with a CAQ have gotten or expect that they will get a raise. One in three received a cash bonus.

Career Advancement

The number of PAs with a CAQ who say they have found or expect to find a new job is about 75%, and promotions have gone to about 40%.

More Respect

PAs with a CAQ find that they are respected more by professionals and patients alike – Three in four experience more respect from professionals, and two-thirds experience more respect from patients.

Last updated January 2022.