Scope of Practice: Physician Assistants
The Senate Health Committee passed S1184 (Vitale), which would expand the scope of practice for physician assistants. MSNJ, along with specialty societies, negotiated closely with the Society of Physician Assistants on amendments to strike a balance protecting patient concerns. With amendments, MSNJ supports the bill. The process was a model for cooperation with non-physician groups. First, the bill would authorize a physician assistant to make pronouncements of death, and to undertake any other duties and responsibilities beyond those in the statute that a supervising physician elects to delegate, pursuant to a written delegation agreement. The duties and responsibilities delegated to a physician assistant would be limited to those procedures that are customary to the supervising physician’s specialty, and that are within the supervising physician’s competence and training. The bill provides parameters for a delegation agreement, including a requirement that, in the case of a multi-specialty physician practice, a written delegation agreement must be executed for each physician specialty within the practice. The bill requires a physician assistant who is working in either in or outpatient settings to be under the continuous supervision of a physician; supervision may mean only maintaining contact through electronic communication. The bill’s requirements associated with physician supervision will be suspended when a physician assistant is responding to a need for medical care that is created by an emergency or disaster. The bill would remove the requirement for a supervising physician to countersign a physician assistant’s order for medication. Instead, the bill would authorize a physician assistant to order, prescribe, dispense, and administer medications and medical devices to the extent delegated by a supervising physician. The bill also authorizes a physician assistant to request, receive, and sign for prescription drug samples and distribute those samples to patients. Finally, the bill would also require that educational programs required for the licensure of physician assistants be accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, rather than approved by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation.