Mental Health Physician Assistant

What Is A Mental Health Physician Assistant And What Does He Do?

mental health physician assistantAs the name implies, a mental health physician assistant, also known as a psychiatry assistant, is a trained and skilled physician assistant who opted for a specialization in the field of psychiatry. Just like a medical physician assistant, the psychiatry PA also works under the close supervision of a licensed and certified psychiatrist, and he has to perform a variety of job duties and requirements. For instance, it is the duty of the mental health PA to carefully assess the patients and to interview them and their families, to check their family history and see if there are any mental conditions that run in the family, to maintain the physical health of the patient until the patient will receive the proper psychiatric care, to assign a diagnosis based on the DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to order laboratory tests, prescribe medications and so on. In other words, the duties of a mental health PA are the same as a general medical PA, the sole difference is that they are applied to the psychiatric industry.

Mental health physician assistants can be found working in a variety of public and private settings, from prisons and jails (which often tend to pay the highest) to private health clinics, public state hospitals, managed care systems, country mental health facilities, psychiatric emergency units, emergency rooms and so forth.

How To Become A Mental Health Physician Assistant?

If you have decided to become a psychiatrist physician assistant, then you will have to take the same steps as any other physician assistant, the sole difference is that you will get your experience in the psychiatric industry (the clinical rotations that every future PA must complete will be completed in the mental care field). There is an initial period of several years (three to five) of academic and clinical training in different areas of medicine that will allow you to pursue your state license and national certification as a physician assistant.

The first step you need to take is to complete a Bachelor’s Degree training program and to gain some experience as a psychiatric resident. You may be required to complete several months of post graduate training in psychiatric medicine or neurology, where you will get all the theoretic and the practical experience that every future mental health physician assistant will need. The good news is that psychiatry is also a rather diversified field and you can opt for a subspecialty – there is geriatric psychiatry where you will have to care for the elderly, child psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and many other subspecialties you can choose from.


mental-health-physician assistant

Every physician assistant, regardless of their specialization, must pursue a certification and a licensure in order to be able to work legally in the United States of America. That being said, physician assistants should pursue the Psychiatry CAQ, and in order to do that they must demonstrate their advanced knowledge, skills and expertise in the level of psychiatry. If you have decided to become a mental health PA, then you will need to have considerably more insight into the field of psychiatry than an entry-level physician assistant that works in a generalist practice.

In addition to meeting the basic examination requirements, every applicant must also complete some hours of continuing medical education that are specific to their specialty. From the moment the mental health PA initiates the CAQ process, he or she will have six years at their disposal to pay the administrative fee of $100, to complete all the four components for the CAQ psychiatry certification as well as to pass the specialty examination.

Before applying for a Psychiatry CAQ, every future mental health physician assistant must firstly hold the PA-C designation, or the Physician Assistant-Certified title, which means that these health care professionals must firstly sit for the PANCE examination and pass it. In addition to this designation, all applicants must also possess a valid and unrestricted license that allows them to practice as physician assistants in at least one of the jurisdictions or territories of the United States of America. The Psychiatry CAQ Designation is provided by the NCCPA, just like the PANCE examination, and another notable eligibility requirements is to provide attestation from a licensed supervising psychiatrist who has enough expertise in the field in which you want to specialize (mental health, in this case).


  1. Hi,
    I am a certified PA in Ghana(West Africa) and a practicing mental health nurse(8years). How do I start to specialize as a psychiatry PA.please help.

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