Specialty certification and clinical flexibility

Eric D. Peterson, Sobia Shariff Hussaini, Melissa Murfin, Benjamin J. Smith, Maura Polansky, Amy M. Klingler, Phyllis R. Peterson, Jane Mast, Karen A. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability for PAs to easily move from one specialty to another without additional formal training is a unique feature of the profession that is valued by PAs and their employers. Specialty certification has been viewed as a threat to this flexibility, yet 73% of PAs are in specialty practice. How can the desire to preserve flexibility be balanced against the desire of specialized PAs to distinguish themselves in their chosen specialty? This article reviews the issue of specialty certification in the context of contemporary PA practice and concludes that although specialty certification remains a threat to the flexibility of the PA model, it may be appropriate in some situations. In particular, specialty certification may be appropriate as a means for promotion within healthcare systems so long as it is not used as a requirement for entry into specialty practice, credentialing, or third-party reimbursement. A portfolio model may give stakeholders an alternative way to assess the experience and competencies of PAs in specialty practice areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-48
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • AAPA
  • certificate of added qualifications
  • flexibility
  • physician assistant
  • portfolio
  • specialty certification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nurse Assisting


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