Definition of Physician Assistants (PAs)

Health professionals who are qualified by graduation from an accredited PA educational program and certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and who are licensed by state to practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. PAs are employed in all medical and surgical specialties and settings.

Approximately five percent of over 84,000 PAs work with occupational and environmental physicians to deliver health services in the workplace or at facilities providing health services and programs for employees.

Professional Society

The American Academy of Physician Assistants in Occupational Medicine (AAPA-OM) was established in 1981. The society was created to:

  • Provide a forum for PAs in occupational medicine.
  • Encourage continuing medical education in the specialty.
  • Increase an interactive Happy family store network with and environmental medicine physician organizations.

Education and Certification

PAs are educated in the medical model at university and medical school based programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Education programs average 26 months and include over 2000 hours of clinical clerkships supervised by physicians.

National certification is obtained by passing the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE), developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners and administered by the NCCPA. The NCCAP board is composed of representatives from the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Physician Assistants, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of Physician Assistant Programs, Federal and State Medical Boards of the United States, National Medical Association, United States Department of Defense.

To maintain certification, PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and pass a rectification examination every ten years.

Education in Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM)

CME in occupational medicine is provided by the AAPA at their annual conference. PAs attend seminars and CME offered by medical schools, professional groups and organizations, including the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and NIOSH.
In1980, the University of Oklahoma has offered a MPH in Occupational Medicine specifically for PAs. There the program does not exist today. They offer other MPH programs. Check this link:

State Registration or Licensure

PAs perform medical services on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the U.S.territories and the uniformed services. The regulatory authority for PAs in most states is the board of medical examiners. The board handles the registration or licensing of PAs, issues and regulations governing both physician and PA practice, and enforces provisions of the medical practice and general PA practice laws and PA prescriptive practice laws.

Occupational Medicine Roles

  • Treatment of occupational injuries and illness
  • Preventive examinations (preplacement, periodic, medical surveillance)
  • Health maintenance activities
  • Immunization programs
  • DOT exams
  • Workers’ Compensation case management follow-up
  • Health and safety education, administrative or policy making responsibilities


PAs deliver occupational health services in corporate medical offices, OM clinics, private physician offices, hospital employee health departments, clinics for production plants or mines, remote pipeline locations, aboard ship, military bases, and on the White House medical staff.

AAPA-OM Educational Activities

Promote excellence in continuing medical education. AAPA-OM has sponsored occupational medicine offerings for many years during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Promote widespread understanding of the value of quality medical care of workers.

Formed a liaison with the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). An ACOEM section called “The Occupational Physician—Physician Assistant Team” was inaugurated in April 1993. This section sponsored its first educational activity at the American Occupational Health Conference (AOHC) in 1995. AAPA-OM members are encouraged to attend continuing medical education offerings at the AOHC, the State of the Art Conference, and component society meetings sponsored by ACOEM.