PA Profession in 2022: Name Change, Licensing, Exam Updates

Talia Sierra, DMSc, PA-C


December 29, 2022

Toward the end of the year, I always become a little nostalgic as I recall the accomplishments that my family and friends have made over the year — the events that have passed and challenges that we have overcome. This year, I also want to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the accomplishments for the physician assistant (PA) profession from 2022.

Practicing Across State Lines

As medical practices increasingly offer telemedicine visits, clinicians may find themselves limited by their licensure. That is, though a patient from nearly anywhere in the United States can join a telehealth call, clinicians can only see patients and practice in the states for which they hold a license. The American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA) has been working on an agreement, the PA Licensure Compact, which would enable reciprocal licensing across states that pass similar language through the legislature. In October, the AAPA completed the model legislation for this agreement with the hopes of enacting the legislation in seven states. This model lays the groundwork for increasing employment opportunities and decreasing licensing fees for PAs while increasing access to care for our patients. Physicians currently have a similar structure, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which includes 37 states.

Alternative Recertification Exam

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) recently announced that starting in January, the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam–Longitudinal Assessment (PANRE-LA) will be a permanent alternative to the traditional PANRE recertification assessment.

The latest exam takes a new approach to addressing gaps in comprehension. It removes some of the stress and anxiety of the recertification process, and focuses on core medical knowledge, NCCPA reports.

The alternative test is the culmination of years of advocacy from the PA community, a 2-year–long pilot program conducted by the NCCPA and innovative restructuring of the traditional Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).

Changing the Industry Moniker

The profession continues to work toward the PA name change, with the AAPA appropriately leading the way by changing their name to the American Academy of Physician Associates.

According to the AAPA's facts on the issue, "changing the profession's legal title at the state and federal levels is a long-term process. Title change implementation requires a significant commitment from the profession and other PA organizations in terms of financial obligations, resource allocations, and legislative and regulatory efforts."

The AAPA explains further: "Each constituent organization will decide if/when to change their organization's name, which will vary based on the degree of legal implications for that organization."

While professional organizations continue to advocate for the name change at local levels, there is much discussion as to whether this is a positive or negative change. Although I believe the name change will be helpful at legislative and organizational levels and for the future of the profession as whole, it is also important to remember that the name change has very little impact on the day-to-day operations of most PAs. For example, changing my title doesn't change what I do or how I practice medicine. It doesn't automatically make me a better or worse clinician.

I call myself a PA now and will continue to be a PA when the title does officially change. We should always bear in mind that the PA focus has always been on providing quality and competent patient care, and this will continue regardless of our title. It will have no impact on the relationships that we forge with our patients or the care that we provide them, and it is these relationships and care that will make the largest impact and speak the loudest as to what a PA is or is not.

Last, I want to recognize the hard work, sacrifices, and accomplishments of all of my fellow PAs. Our work in healthcare is often dirty and difficult, and we show up every day, regardless of the day prior. As we head into 2023, I encourage you to continue the compassion and exceptional care that can sometimes feel so heavy. I hear you. I see you. You are appreciated and you are enough. We can continue to make changes together.

Talia Sierra, DMSc, PA-C, is an associate professor in the PA program at Idaho State University and cofounder of the nonprofit The Burn Clinic, which offers education, prevention, and treatment of burnout for healthcare providers and students.


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