On the Job, Scope of Practice

Scope of Practice With Nurse Practitioners

I have been receiving an increasing number of questions about the scope of practice for medical assistants when they are working under the supervision of nurse practitioners (NPs) or physician assistants (PAs), and not under the direct supervision of a physician. This scenario will become more frequent because of the Affordable Care Act and the anticipated increase in demand for primary care, which is often provided by NPs and PAs.

Because physician assistants always work under physician authority and supervision—although, in some states, very general physician supervision—the scope of practice for medical assistants working under PAs is usually very similar to their scope of practice when working under physician supervision. However, there are some state laws that do not permit medical assistants to administer medication unless a physician (MD) or osteopath (DO) is on the premises.

Medical assistants’ scope of practice when working under nurse practitioners (or other advanced practice nurses) is usually more difficult to ascertain from state law. The controlling law is the state nurse practice act and the regulations and policies of the state board of nursing. Often, the legal analysis is complicated.

If you work under the direct supervision of a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant and have questions about scope of practice, please feel free to direct your questions to me.