(a) The purpose of this section is to encourage more effective utilization of the skills of physicians or groups of physicians by enabling them to delegate health care tasks to qualified assistants when such delegation is consistent with the patient’s health and welfare.
(b) In order that maximum skills may be obtained within a minimum time period of education, a physician assistant shall be specialized to the extent that he or she can operate efficiently and effectively in the specialty areas in which he or she has been trained or is experienced.
(c) The purpose of this section is to encourage the utilization of physician assistants by physicians and to allow for innovative development of programs for the education of physician assistants.
(2) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section:
(a) “Approved program” means a program, formally approved by the boards, for the education of physician assistants.
(b) “Boards” means the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
(c) “Council” means the Council on Physician Assistants.
(d) “Trainee” means a person who is currently enrolled in an approved program.
(e) “Physician assistant” means a person who is a graduate of an approved program or its equivalent or meets standards approved by the boards and is licensed to perform medical services delegated by the supervising physician.
(f) “Supervision” means responsible supervision and control. Except in cases of emergency, supervision requires the easy availability or physical presence of the licensed physician for consultation and direction of the actions of the physician assistant. For the purposes of this definition, the term “easy availability” includes the ability to communicate by way of telecommunication. The boards shall establish rules as to what constitutes responsible supervision of the physician assistant.
(g) “Proficiency examination” means an entry-level examination approved by the boards, including, but not limited to, those examinations administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
(h) “Continuing medical education” means courses recognized and approved by the boards, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, or the Accreditation Council on Continuing Medical Education.
(3) PERFORMANCE OF SUPERVISING PHYSICIAN.—Each physician or group of physicians supervising a licensed physician assistant must be qualified in the medical areas in which the physician assistant is to perform and shall be individually or collectively responsible and liable for the performance and the acts and omissions of the physician assistant. A physician may not supervise more than four currently licensed physician assistants at any one time. A physician supervising a physician assistant pursuant to this section may not be required to review and cosign charts or medical records prepared by such physician assistant.
(4) PERFORMANCE OF PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS.—
(a) The boards shall adopt, by rule, the general principles that supervising physicians must use in developing the scope of practice of a physician assistant under direct supervision and under indirect supervision. These principles shall recognize the diversity of both specialty and practice settings in which physician assistants are used.
(b) This chapter does not prevent third-party payors from reimbursing employers of physician assistants for covered services rendered by licensed physician assistants.
(c) Licensed physician assistants may not be denied clinical hospital privileges, except for cause, so long as the supervising physician is a staff member in good standing.
(d) A supervisory physician may delegate to a licensed physician assistant, pursuant to a written protocol, the authority to act according to s. 154.04(1)(c). Such delegated authority is limited to the supervising physician’s practice in connection with a county health department as defined and established pursuant to chapter 154. The boards shall adopt rules governing the supervision of physician assistants by physicians in county health departments.
(e) A supervisory physician may delegate to a fully licensed physician assistant the authority to prescribe or dispense any medication used in the supervisory physician’s practice unless such medication is listed on the formulary created pursuant to paragraph (f). A fully licensed physician assistant may only prescribe or dispense such medication under the following circumstances:
1. A physician assistant must clearly identify to the patient that he or she is a physician assistant. Furthermore, the physician assistant must inform the patient that the patient has the right to see the physician prior to any prescription being prescribed or dispensed by the physician assistant.
2. The supervisory physician must notify the department of his or her intent to delegate, on a department-approved form, before delegating such authority and notify the department of any change in prescriptive privileges of the physician assistant. Authority to dispense may be delegated only by a supervising physician who is registered as a dispensing practitioner in compliance with s. 465.0276.
3. The physician assistant must file with the department, before commencing to prescribe or dispense, evidence that he or she has completed a continuing medical education course of at least 3 classroom hours in prescriptive practice, conducted by an accredited program approved by the boards, which course covers the limitations, responsibilities, and privileges involved in prescribing medicinal drugs, or evidence that he or she has received education comparable to the continuing education course as part of an accredited physician assistant training program.
4. The physician assistant must file with the department a signed affidavit that he or she has completed a minimum of 10 continuing medical education hours in the specialty practice in which the physician assistant has prescriptive privileges with each licensure renewal application.
5. The department shall issue a license and a prescriber number to the physician assistant granting authority for the prescribing of medicinal drugs authorized within this paragraph upon completion of the foregoing requirements. The physician assistant shall not be required to independently register pursuant to s. 465.0276.
6. The prescription must be written in a form that complies with chapter 499 and must contain, in addition to the supervisory physician’s name, address, and telephone number, the physician assistant’s prescriber number. Unless it is a drug or drug sample dispensed by the physician assistant, the prescription must be filled in a pharmacy permitted under chapter 465 and must be dispensed in that pharmacy by a pharmacist licensed under chapter 465. The appearance of the prescriber number creates a presumption that the physician assistant is authorized to prescribe the medicinal drug and the prescription is valid.
7. The physician assistant must note the prescription or dispensing of medication in the appropriate medical record.
8. This paragraph does not prohibit a supervisory physician from delegating to a physician assistant the authority to order medication for a hospitalized patient of the supervisory physician.
This paragraph does not apply to facilities licensed pursuant to chapter 395.
(f)1. The council shall establish a formulary of medicinal drugs that a fully licensed physician assistant, licensed under this section or s. 459.022, may not prescribe. The formulary must include controlled substances as defined in chapter 893, general anesthetics, and radiographic contrast materials.
2. In establishing the formulary, the council shall consult with a pharmacist licensed under chapter 465, but not licensed under this chapter or chapter 459, who shall be selected by the State Surgeon General.
3. Only the council shall add to, delete from, or modify the formulary. Any person who requests an addition, deletion, or modification of a medicinal drug listed on such formulary has the burden of proof to show cause why such addition, deletion, or modification should be made.
4. The boards shall adopt the formulary required by this paragraph, and each addition, deletion, or modification to the formulary, by rule. Notwithstanding any provision of chapter 120 to the contrary, the formulary rule shall be effective 60 days after the date it is filed with the Secretary of State. Upon adoption of the formulary, the department shall mail a copy of such formulary to each fully licensed physician assistant, licensed under this section or s. 459.022, and to each pharmacy licensed by the state. The boards shall establish, by rule, a fee not to exceed $200 to fund the provisions of this paragraph and paragraph (e).
(5) PERFORMANCE BY TRAINEES.—Notwithstanding any other law, a trainee may perform medical services when such services are rendered within the scope of an approved program.
(6) PROGRAM APPROVAL.—
(a) The boards shall approve programs, based on recommendations by the council, for the education and training of physician assistants which meet standards established by rule of the boards. The council may recommend only those physician assistant programs that hold full accreditation or provisional accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs or its successor organization. Any educational institution offering a physician assistant program approved by the boards pursuant to this paragraph may also offer the physician assistant program authorized in paragraph (c) for unlicensed physicians.
(b) The boards shall adopt and publish standards to ensure that such programs operate in a manner that does not endanger the health or welfare of the patients who receive services within the scope of the programs. The boards shall review the quality of the curricula, faculties, and facilities of such programs and take whatever other action is necessary to determine that the purposes of this section are being met.
(c) Any community college with the approval of the State Board of Education may conduct a physician assistant program which shall apply for national accreditation through the American Medical Association’s Committee on Allied Health, Education, and Accreditation, or its successor organization, and which may admit unlicensed physicians, as authorized in subsection (7), who are graduates of foreign medical schools listed with the World Health Organization. The unlicensed physician must have been a resident of this state for a minimum of 12 months immediately prior to admission to the program. An evaluation of knowledge base by examination shall be required to grant advanced academic credit and to fulfill the necessary requirements to graduate. A minimum of one 16-week semester of supervised clinical and didactic education, which may be completed simultaneously, shall be required before graduation from the program. All other provisions of this section shall remain in effect.
(7) PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT LICENSURE.—
(a) Any person desiring to be licensed as a physician assistant must apply to the department. The department shall issue a license to any person certified by the council as having met the following requirements:
1. Is at least 18 years of age.
2. Has satisfactorily passed a proficiency examination by an acceptable score established by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. If an applicant does not hold a current certificate issued by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and has not actively practiced as a physician assistant within the immediately preceding 4 years, the applicant must retake and successfully complete the entry-level examination of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants to be eligible for licensure.
3. Has completed the application form and remitted an application fee not to exceed $300 as set by the boards. An application for licensure made by a physician assistant must include:
a. A certificate of completion of a physician assistant training program specified in subsection (6).
b. A sworn statement of any prior felony convictions.
c. A sworn statement of any previous revocation or denial of licensure or certification in any state.
d. Two letters of recommendation.
(b)1. Notwithstanding subparagraph (a)2. and sub-subparagraph (a)3.a., the department shall examine each applicant who the Board of Medicine certifies:
a. Has completed the application form and remitted a nonrefundable application fee not to exceed $500 and an examination fee not to exceed $300, plus the actual cost to the department to provide the examination. The examination fee is refundable if the applicant is found to be ineligible to take the examination. The department shall not require the applicant to pass a separate practical component of the examination. For examinations given after July 1, 1998, competencies measured through practical examinations shall be incorporated into the written examination through a multiple-choice format. The department shall translate the examination into the native language of any applicant who requests and agrees to pay all costs of such translation, provided that the translation request is filed with the board office no later than 9 months before the scheduled examination and the applicant remits translation fees as specified by the department no later than 6 months before the scheduled examination, and provided that the applicant demonstrates to the department the ability to communicate orally in basic English. If the applicant is unable to pay translation costs, the applicant may take the next available examination in English if the applicant submits a request in writing by the application deadline and if the applicant is otherwise eligible under this section. To demonstrate the ability to communicate orally in basic English, a passing score or grade is required, as determined by the department or organization that developed it, on the test for spoken English (TSE) by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the test of English as a foreign language (TOEFL) by ETS, a high school or college level English course, or the English examination for citizenship, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. A notarized copy of an Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certificate may also be used to demonstrate the ability to communicate in basic English; and
b.(I) Is an unlicensed physician who graduated from a foreign medical school listed with the World Health Organization who has not previously taken and failed the examination of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and who has been certified by the Board of Medicine as having met the requirements for licensure as a medical doctor by examination as set forth in s. 458.311(1), (3), (4), and (5), with the exception that the applicant is not required to have completed an approved residency of at least 1 year and the applicant is not required to have passed the licensing examination specified under s. 458.311 or hold a valid, active certificate issued by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates; was eligible and made initial application for certification as a physician assistant in this state between July 1, 1990, and June 30, 1991; and was a resident of this state on July 1, 1990, or was licensed or certified in any state in the United States as a physician assistant on July 1, 1990; or
(II) Completed all coursework requirements of the Master of Medical Science Physician Assistant Program offered through the Florida College of Physician’s Assistants prior to its closure in August of 1996. Prior to taking the examination, such applicant must successfully complete any clinical rotations that were not completed under such program prior to its termination and any additional clinical rotations with an appropriate physician assistant preceptor, not to exceed 6 months, that are determined necessary by the council. The boards shall determine, based on recommendations from the council, the facilities under which such incomplete or additional clinical rotations may be completed and shall also determine what constitutes successful completion thereof, provided such requirements are comparable to those established by accredited physician assistant programs. This sub-sub-subparagraph is repealed July 1, 2001.
2. The department may grant temporary licensure to an applicant who meets the requirements of subparagraph 1. Between meetings of the council, the department may grant temporary licensure to practice based on the completion of all temporary licensure requirements. All such administratively issued licenses shall be reviewed and acted on at the next regular meeting of the council. A temporary license expires 30 days after receipt and notice of scores to the licenseholder from the first available examination specified in subparagraph 1. following licensure by the department. An applicant who fails the proficiency examination is no longer temporarily licensed, but may apply for a one-time extension of temporary licensure after reapplying for the next available examination. Extended licensure shall expire upon failure of the licenseholder to sit for the next available examination or upon receipt and notice of scores to the licenseholder from such examination.
3. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the examination specified pursuant to subparagraph 1. shall be administered by the department only five times. Applicants certified by the board for examination shall receive at least 6 months’ notice of eligibility prior to the administration of the initial examination. Subsequent examinations shall be administered at 1-year intervals following the reporting of the scores of the first and subsequent examinations. For the purposes of this paragraph, the department may develop, contract for the development of, purchase, or approve an examination that adequately measures an applicant’s ability to practice with reasonable skill and safety. The minimum passing score on the examination shall be established by the department, with the advice of the board. Those applicants failing to pass that examination or any subsequent examination shall receive notice of the administration of the next examination with the notice of scores following such examination. Any applicant who passes the examination and meets the requirements of this section shall be licensed as a physician assistant with all rights defined thereby.
(c) The license must be renewed biennially. Each renewal must include:
1. A renewal fee not to exceed $500 as set by the boards.
2. A sworn statement of no felony convictions in the previous 2 years.
(d) Each licensed physician assistant shall biennially complete 100 hours of continuing medical education or shall hold a current certificate issued by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
(e) Upon employment as a physician assistant, a licensed physician assistant must notify the department in writing within 30 days after such employment or after any subsequent changes in the supervising physician. The notification must include the full name, Florida medical license number, specialty, and address of the supervising physician.
(f) Notwithstanding subparagraph (a)2., the department may grant to a recent graduate of an approved program, as specified in subsection (6), who expects to take the first examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants available for registration after the applicant’s graduation, a temporary license. The temporary license shall expire 30 days after receipt of scores of the proficiency examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Between meetings of the council, the department may grant a temporary license to practice based on the completion of all temporary licensure requirements. All such administratively issued licenses shall be reviewed and acted on at the next regular meeting of the council. The recent graduate may be licensed prior to employment, but must comply with paragraph (e). An applicant who has passed the proficiency examination may be granted permanent licensure. An applicant failing the proficiency examination is no longer temporarily licensed, but may reapply for a 1-year extension of temporary licensure. An applicant may not be granted more than two temporary licenses and may not be licensed as a physician assistant until he or she passes the examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. As prescribed by board rule, the council may require an applicant who does not pass the licensing examination after five or more attempts to complete additional remedial education or training. The council shall prescribe the additional requirements in a manner that permits the applicant to complete the requirements and be reexamined within 2 years after the date the applicant petitions the council to retake the examination a sixth or subsequent time.
(g) The Board of Medicine may impose any of the penalties authorized under ss. 456.072 and 458.331(2) upon a physician assistant if the physician assistant or the supervising physician has been found guilty of or is being investigated for any act that constitutes a violation of this chapter or chapter 456.
(h) An application or other documentation required to be submitted to the department under this subsection may be submitted electronically.
(8) DELEGATION OF POWERS AND DUTIES.—The boards may delegate such powers and duties to the council as they may deem proper.
(9) COUNCIL ON PHYSICIAN ASSISTANTS.—The Council on Physician Assistants is created within the department.
(a) The council shall consist of five members appointed as follows:
1. The chairperson of the Board of Medicine shall appoint three members who are physicians and members of the Board of Medicine. One of the physicians must supervise a physician assistant in the physician’s practice.
2. The chairperson of the Board of Osteopathic Medicine shall appoint one member who is a physician and a member of the Board of Osteopathic Medicine.
3. The State Surgeon General or his or her designee shall appoint a fully licensed physician assistant licensed under this chapter or chapter 459.
(b) Two of the members appointed to the council must be physicians who supervise physician assistants in their practice. Members shall be appointed to terms of 4 years, except that of the initial appointments, two members shall be appointed to terms of 2 years, two members shall be appointed to terms of 3 years, and one member shall be appointed to a term of 4 years, as established by rule of the boards. Council members may not serve more than two consecutive terms. The council shall annually elect a chairperson from among its members.
(c) The council shall:
1. Recommend to the department the licensure of physician assistants.
2. Develop all rules regulating the use of physician assistants by physicians under this chapter and chapter 459, except for rules relating to the formulary developed under paragraph (4)(f). The council shall also develop rules to ensure that the continuity of supervision is maintained in each practice setting. The boards shall consider adopting a proposed rule developed by the council at the regularly scheduled meeting immediately following the submission of the proposed rule by the council. A proposed rule submitted by the council may not be adopted by either board unless both boards have accepted and approved the identical language contained in the proposed rule. The language of all proposed rules submitted by the council must be approved by both boards pursuant to each respective board’s guidelines and standards regarding the adoption of proposed rules. If either board rejects the council’s proposed rule, that board must specify its objection to the council with particularity and include any recommendations it may have for the modification of the proposed rule.
3. Make recommendations to the boards regarding all matters relating to physician assistants.
4. Address concerns and problems of practicing physician assistants in order to improve safety in the clinical practices of licensed physician assistants.
(d) When the council finds that an applicant for licensure has failed to meet, to the council’s satisfaction, each of the requirements for licensure set forth in this section, the council may enter an order to:
1. Refuse to certify the applicant for licensure;
2. Approve the applicant for licensure with restrictions on the scope of practice or license; or
3. Approve the applicant for conditional licensure. Such conditions may include placement of the licensee on probation for a period of time and subject to such conditions as the council may specify, including but not limited to, requiring the licensee to undergo treatment, to attend continuing education courses, to work under the direct supervision of a physician licensed in this state, or to take corrective action.
(10) INACTIVE AND DELINQUENT STATUS.—A license on inactive or delinquent status may be reactivated only as provided in s. 456.036.
(11) PENALTY.—Any person who has not been licensed by the council and approved by the department and who holds himself or herself out as a physician assistant or who uses any other term in indicating or implying that he or she is a physician assistant commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.084 or by a fine not exceeding $5,000.
(12) DENIAL, SUSPENSION, OR REVOCATION OF LICENSURE.—The boards may deny, suspend, or revoke a physician assistant license if a board determines that the physician assistant has violated this chapter.
(13) RULES.—The boards shall adopt rules to implement this section, including rules detailing the contents of the application for licensure and notification pursuant to subsection (7) and rules to ensure both the continued competency of physician assistants and the proper utilization of them by physicians or groups of physicians.
(14) EXISTING PROGRAMS.—This section does not eliminate or supersede existing laws relating to other paramedical professions or services and is supplemental to all such existing laws relating to the licensure and practice of paramedical professions.
(15) LIABILITY.—Each supervising physician using a physician assistant is liable for any acts or omissions of the physician assistant acting under the physician’s supervision and control.
(16) LEGAL SERVICES.—Legal services shall be provided to the council pursuant to s. 456.009(1).
(17) FEES.—The department shall allocate the fees collected under this section to the council.
History.—ss. 1, 8, ch. 79-302; s. 301, ch. 81-259; ss. 2, 3, ch. 81-318; s. 8, ch. 84-543; s. 8, ch. 84-553; ss. 20, 25, 26, ch. 86-245; s. 29, ch. 88-1; s. 15, ch. 88-277; s. 3, ch. 88-361; s. 26, ch. 89-162; s. 2, ch. 90-60; ss. 33, 34, ch. 90-134; s. 2, ch. 91-22; s. 43, ch. 91-201; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 1, ch. 92-22; s. 108, ch. 94-218; s. 1, ch. 95-231; s. 1, ch. 96-197; s. 223, ch. 97-101; s. 1094, ch. 97-103; s. 27, ch. 97-264; s. 6, ch. 98-49; s. 49, ch. 98-166; s. 155, ch. 99-251; s. 1, ch. 99-370; s. 100, ch. 99-397; s. 107, ch. 2000-160; ss. 27, 42, ch. 2000-318; s. 1, ch. 2001-100; ss. 23, 55, ch. 2001-277; s. 75, ch. 2002-1; s. 76, ch. 2004-5; s. 15, ch. 2004-41; s. 1, ch. 2007-155; s. 75, ch. 2008-6; s. 1, ch. 2008-86; s. 2, ch. 2009-177; s. 1, ch. 2010-55.