Gov. Murphy Temporarily Expands Scope of Practice for Advanced Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants, While Also Providing Broad Civil Immunity to Health Care Professionals Aiding With the COVID-19 Pandemic
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases in New Jersey is expected to continue to rise and in anticipation of the need to expand the New Jersey health care system’s capacity, Gov. Murphy issued Executive Order 112 on April 1, 2020 (“Order”). The governor stated that this Order “removes bureaucratic roadblocks to quickly bring more health care professionals” to aid New Jersey in responding to this pandemic. The Order states that the “Commissioner of Health has determined that the state needs the help of additional qualified health, mental health, and related professionals to supplement our health care capacity on a temporary basis.”
Temporary Health Care Licenses
Murphy’s administration previously passed regulations expanding access to telehealth and began the process of issuing temporary licenses by reciprocity for out-of-state health care professionals. The Order gives authority to the Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) to temporarily reactivate the licenses of New Jersey health care professionals who retired within the last five years and issues temporary medical licenses to physicians licensed in a foreign country.
Anyone interested in reactivating their license can complete the application, which will be published by the DCA shortly. The application for a temporary license by reciprocity is already available on the DCA website.
Individuals who retired their license within the last five years, and seek to reactivate it on a temporary basis, do not have to pay an applications fee, provide an affidavit of employment during retirement, or provide proof of continuing education. Also, they do not need to obtain malpractice insurance (see more information below).
Scope of Practice Expanded for NPs and PAs
The Order expands the scope of practice for advanced nurse practitioners (“NP”) and physician assistants (“PA”), by temporarily removing physician oversight requirements and allowing them to prescribe controlled dangerous substances (CDS) independently.
The Order temporarily lifts the requirement for NPs to work with a collaborating physician and removes the requirements to have a collaborating physician review and sign medical charts, provide the approval to dispense narcotics for chronic pain management or detoxification treatment, and determine medical services needed for treatment of substance use disorder. The Order removes restrictions and obligations of physicians to supervise PAs and lifts the requirement for delegation agreements for PAs.
Broad Professional Liability Immunity
The Order extends the immunity generally available to public entities during public health emergencies, pursuant to NJSA 26:13-19, to private entities, including health care providers.
The Order states that individuals granted temporary licenses do not need to obtain malpractice insurance. It provides broad liability immunity for health care professionals granted temporary licenses, as long as their actions do not constitute a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, gross negligence, or willful misconduct. Similar immunity is granted to other health care providers, including NPs and PAs who may or may not be practicing within their scope of practice. This immunity is valid during the State of Emergency or Public Health Emergency and is retroactive to March 9, 2020, when Gov. Murphy declared both a Public Health Emergency and a State of Emergency.