Nursing Home Physician Assistant

What Is A Nursing Home Physician Assistant And How To Become One?

nursing home paA nursing home PA, also referred to as a geriatric physician assistant, is a skilled and highly trained physician assistant who chose to specialize in the geriatric field of medicine. There are tens of different subspecialties one can opt for after gaining their designation as PA-C (Physician Assistant-Certified), and it often happens to be that pursuing a CAQ in geriatrics is a very rewarding choice for most nursing home PAs, both from a professional and from a financial point of view. That being said, physician assistants who work in nursing homes are an essential link between licensed physicians, older patients and various other health care professionals. Just like physician assistants who specialize in any other field of medicine, nursing home PAs work under the direct care and attention of licensed physicians (geriatric physicians, in this case).

It is the duty of the physician assistant in nursing homes to provide a comprehensive geriatric assessment, to assess the cognitive and the functional status of the elderly patients as well as their special needs. The training for becoming a nursing home PA starts with enrolling in a specialized and ARC-PA accredited physician assistant training program – after graduating from this training program, which lasts around 27 months on average, it is of utmost importance for physician assistants to make sure that they meet all the eligibility requirements in order to sit for the PANCE examination, or the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam, which will help them become certified. After gaining the PA-C designation, these health care professionals can move on to applying for the state licensure: both the certification and the licensure are vital in order for these health care professionals to be working legally in the United States of America.

Those who want to become nursing home PAs must look for a year long residency program that takes place in an environment that is both academic and clinical at the same time, as this is the only way for the physician assistant to get used to the classroom teaching (the theoretical training) and the clinical teaching (the practical, hands-on experience) at the same time. The advanced nursing home residency programs will introduce PAs to both the basic and the advanced geriatric techniques and concepts, and the training typically takes place in hospices, nursing homes, clinics, hospital units and such. Every future nursing home PA must undergo at least 12 months of specialty training in this field before being able to pursue the CAQ, or the Certificate of Added Qualifications, and the purpose of these training programs is to add expertise to the physician assistant in the field of geriatric medicine, as well as to increase not only the medical skills and experience of these health care providers, but also their marketability.

The educational components of these residency programs designed for future nursing home physician assistants include guest speakers, weekly lectures, service based specialty lectures, faculty mentorship and a plethora of conferences. In addition to this, all residents will enjoy both inpatient and outpatient continuity experiences with extended care patients and geriatric patients from nursing home, as there typically are some month long core rotations in geriatric psychiatry, long term care, palliative care, rural health, home based primary care, practice management, wound care and all the other essential aspects that will greatly benefit the physician assistant that will work in nursing homes later on.

CAQ Requirements For Physician Assistants In Nursing Homes

nursing home_paAs you may know already, every physician assistant who decided to make the best of his or her career and to specialize in one of the many different fields of medicine, must pursue the Certificate of Added Qualifications credential. Geriatricians and primary care physicians, as well as physician assistants who have obtained additional training in the form of residency in a nursing home or any other similar clinical setting, must obtain the CAQ in Geriatric Medicine in order to be able to work in these fields. The CAQ credential will show that physician assistants who work in nursing homes have managed to achieve an in-depth expertise in the aging process and the way aging impacts illness patterns. Moreover, these health care professionals are also highly trained in fields like drug therapy in seniors, rehabilitation as well as long term health maintenance.


  1. Your statement: “…physician assistants… must obtain the CAQ in Geriatric Medicine in order to be able to work in these fields” is not true and is misleading. One does not have to obtain the CAQ in order to work in a geriatric setting. Additionally, physician assistants are not able to get the CAQ through the American Academy of Family Physicians which some of your links lead one to believe. There are a lot of PA’s seeing patients in nursing homes and other geriatric settings without CAQ.

    1. Ken,
      thank you for setting us straight on that issue. We’ll look over this article and see how we can clarify.

Comments are closed.