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Why is physician board certification important?

Board certification demonstrates a physician’s exceptional expertise in a particular specialty and/or subspecialty of medical practice.

Board certified physicians voluntarily meet additional standards beyond basic licensing. They demonstrate their expertise by earning board certification through one of the 24 member boards that are part of the not-for-profit American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Before a physician can become board certified, he or she must:

  • Complete four years of pre-medical education at a college or university.
  • Earn an MD or DO degree from a qualified medical school.
  • Complete three to five years of full-time experience in an accredited residency training program.
  • Complete and pass a written exam, and in some cases an additional oral exam, created and administered by the member board in his or her specialty.
  • Actively keep pace with the latest advances in his or her specialty and demonstrate best practices for patient safety, communications, and ethics in order to maintain board certification.

Source: American Board of Medical Specialties

Physician Assistant Certification

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. A PA is a graduate of an accredited PA educational program who is nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with a physician’s supervision.

Physician assistants perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to prescribe medications. Physician assistants practice medicine as a team and exercise a scope of practice and knowledge content similar to their collaborating physician.

Source: American Academy of Physician Assistants

Before a physician assistant can become certified, he or she must:

  • Complete four years of education at a college or university.
  • Complete a two to three year accredited physician assistant program; a graduate program leading to a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS).
  • Pass a national certifying exam before becoming a certified physician assistant (PA-C); this certification is required for licensure in all states. The use of "PA-C" is limited only to PAs currently certified and in compliance with the regulations of the national certifying organization, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
  • In addition, a PA must earn and log 100 Continuing Medical Education (CME) hours and reregister his or her certificate with the NCCPA every two years.
  • Every six years, a PA must also recertify by successfully completing a national recertifying exam. 

Nurse Practitioner Certification

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has completed advanced education and training beyond that of a registered nurse and earned either a Master of Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing degree. The core philosophy of nurse practitioners is individualized care, focusing on patients' conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of patients and their families. Prevention, wellness, and patient education are priorities.

In Nebraska, nurse practitioners are licensed to manage common health problems and chronic conditions including prescribing treatments and medications.

To become licensed/certified to practice, nurse practitioners hold board certification in a specific area (such as oncology, orthopedics, surgery, women’s health, pediatrics, etc.), and are licensed through the state nursing boards.

Source: Nebraska Nurse Practitioners,