Alphabet Soup: PA Profession Terms, Explained

Students, How Much PA Lingo Do You Know?

Letters of the AlphabetCongratulations! You’ve made one big life decision: you’re going to be a PA. But now that you’re immersed in school and learning more about the profession and AAPA, you’re confused. What in the world is everyone talking about? In the PA profession, there’s a learning curve when it comes to lingo. There are references, shorthand, abbreviations, and acronyms and keeping them straight can get your head spinning fast. To get you on track, we’ve gathered a cheat sheet of frequently-used terms so you can join the conversation right away!

When you’re starting out as a PA student:

Student Society

Student societies are groups of PA students who meet regularly to discuss issues of common interest. Your program probably has one!

Faculty Advisor

Every student society has a faculty advisor, and they are there to help you and answer questions. The role of the faculty advisor is to motivate future leaders in the PA profession by encouraging participation, providing information about resources, and nurturing interest in the activities of the program’s student society. They’ll help you get involved!

Challenge Bowl

PA students talk a lot about Challenge Bowl because it’s one of the highlights of AAPA Conference each year. The Challenge Bowl is the hallmark student event during AAPA Conference…and the only national medical game show just for PA students. It’s a quiz-show style competition that gives PA students the opportunity to go head-to-head with your peers to see who will reign as Challenge Bowl champion!

Leadership and Advocacy Summit (LAS)

AAPA’s Leadership and Advocacy Summit takes place each March in Washington, D.C. The event kicks off with a full day dedicated to federal advocacy and afternoon visits with legislators on Capitol Hill. The remainder of the summit includes learning sessions and networking opportunities for practicing PAs and PA students.

[Learn about the benefits of Student membership.]

If you’re interested in student leadership…

Student Academy

The Student Academy, made up of a Board of Directors and the Assembly of Representatives (AOR), leads PA student efforts to further the PA profession, empowers AAPA members to advance their career and enhance patient health, and moves the profession toward PA students’ vision of the future.

Assembly of Representatives (AOR)

The Assembly of Representatives (AOR) is comprised of Student Academy Representatives (SARs) from each recognized PA program’s Student Society. During the Assembly of Representatives Meeting, held each year during AAPA Conference, students debate and determine resolutions which will guide the work of the Student Academy Board of Directors and Student Board Committees for the subsequent leadership year.

Student Academy Representative (SAR)

Each Student Society nominates or votes on a Student Academy Representative, who represents their school’s interests at the AOR meeting during AAPA Conference. In addition to their duties during the AOR meeting, SARs act as a liaison between their student society and the Student Academy; sharing opportunities and resources with their classmates and communicating to AAPA any triumphs or challenges their student society is experiencing.

House of Delegates (HOD)

The House of Delegates is AAPA’s policymaking body and is responsible for enacting policies establishing the collective values, philosophies and principals of the PA profession. Students have an important role to play in the HOD, as they make up the largest delegation within the HOD.

HOD Student Delegate

A student delegate represents PA student interests in the House of Delegates meeting during AAPA Conference each year. Student Delegates are elected by each by the Student Academy Board of Directors. HOD student delegates are led by the Chief Delegate, a student who also sits on the Student Board.

[Student Academy President Cooper Couch encourages PA students to get involved.]

When you’re about to start practicing:

Optimal Team Practice (OTP)

Optimal Team Practice occurs when PAs, physicians, and other healthcare professionals work together to provide quality care without burdensome administrative constraints.

To support Optimal Team Practice, states should: eliminate the legal requirement for a specific relationship between a PA, physician or any other healthcare provider in order for a PA to practice to the full extent of their education, training and experience; create a separate majority-PA board to regulate PAs or add PAs and physicians who work with PAs to medical or healing arts boards; and authorize PAs to be eligible for direct payment by all public and private insurers.

AAPA’s grassroots advocates work tirelessly for OTP’s tenets, sometimes called pillars.

Six Key Elements

AAPA has identified six specific components that the Academy believes all state PA practice acts should contain. Together these components create an ideal PA practice act that allows PAs to practice fully and efficiently while protecting public health and safety. The six key elements are:

  1. “Licensure” as the regulatory term
  2. Full prescriptive authority
  3. Scope of practice determined at the practice level
  4. Adaptable collaboration requirements
  5. Cosignature requirements determined at the practice level
  6. Number of PAs a physician may collaborate with determined at the practice level

Learn more about the Six Key Elements to a Modern PA Practice, including why they are important to the future of the profession.

Title Change Investigation (TCI)

Many PAs feel that there is a disconnect between the title physician assistant and their role in healthcare. The House of Delegates passed a resolution to officially investigate a title change, led by an independent, outside agency, to determine the best marketing strategy and title for the PA profession. Find out where the Title Change Investigation stands today.

Most importantly, know that everyone feels like you do at times – there are new words and references to learn when you start a new job, when you learn a new skill, even when you move to a new city. This is a jumping off point, but give yourself some time and you’ll be amazed by what you absorb.

You May Also Like
PA Students: Want to be a Leader? Start Leading at AAPA!
Stay Up to Date on Student Academy Initiatives
90% of PA Respondents Cite Disconnect Between Official Title “Physician Assistant” and Their Role

Image credit: “In Alphabetical Order – Set 4” by duncan c is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.


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