Would Mandate Continuing Education Credits for Licensure

(TRENTON) – In an effort to further empower patients with respect to their healthcare, legislation that would allow physician assistants to sign, modify, or revoke Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms in the same manner as physicians and advanced practice nurses (APNs) was signed into law by the Governor on Friday. The law is sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union).

Under the new law (A-2144), the Practitioner Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment Act, physician assistants will also have to complete two credits of continuing medical education relating to end-of-life care as a condition of continued licensure.

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“Granting physician assistants with these privileges strengthens the healthcare delivery process,” said Quijano. “In many instances, patient volume or similar issues prevent a physician or APN from immediately tending to a POLST form request. Equipping physician assistants with administrative powers concerning these forms adds another means whereby a patient’s wishes can be acted upon more quickly.” 

As defined in the law, a POLST form is a standardized printed document that is uniquely identifiable and has a uniform color.  It complements an advance directive by converting a person's wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment into a medical order. Under former law, a POLST form could be created, modified, or revoked by a patient or, if the patient lost decision-making capacity, the patient’s representative, and could only be signed by a physician or APN.  The new law will allow a physician assistant to sign a POLST form as well.

The law is set to take immediate effect.