TENNESSEE Bill Would Allow Physician Assistants to Collaborate

Posted By Madilyn Moeller, Friday, February 17, 2023

Bill Name: Senate Bill 1171 (SB 1171) and House version HB 1272

Primary Sponsor: Senator Art Swann, for HB 1272 Representative Mark Cochran

Status: 3/15/2023 Assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Health and Welfare Committee

AmSpa’s Take: Reducing the amount of regulation and paperwork with which advanced practitioners such as physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) need to comply to practice frees up time and resources that can be better spent seeing patients, improving their skills and developing their practices.

Outlook: This bill is in the first steps of the process but, based on the sponsor’s past records, it has a higher likelihood of passing. Some of the sponsors hold leadership positions on the committee where this bill is assigned.

Analysis: Currently, Tennessee physician assistants (PAs) practice under the supervision of a physician. This supervising physician delegates the healthcare tasks that the PA may perform. The relationship is formalized using a written supervision agreement, which lays out what tasks and medications are authorized. Under SB 1171, PAs would instead work under collaboration with a physician.

SB 1171 requires that PAs with fewer than 6,000 hours of clinical experiences would need to work under a protocol with a collaborating physician. The protocol would need to contain: 

  1. The PA’s name, license number, and primary practice location;
  2. The collaborating physician’s name, license number, specialty, and primary practice location;
  3. A general description of the oversight provided by the physician;
  4. A description of the process the PA uses for collaboration with physicians and other members of the healthcare team;
  5. A description on methods for valuating the PA’s competency, knowledge and skills; and
  6. The listed range of services the PA may provide.

For PAs with more than 6,000 hours of clinical experience, they may practice to their level of competence, education, training, and experience. In licensed healthcare facilities, they may provide services that they have been credentialed, privileged or authorized to perform. In PA-owned healthcare settings, the PA must collaborate, consult and refer patients to appropriate members of the healthcare team as indicated by the patient’s condition. This would, in effect, make PAs who meet these practice requirements independent practitioners. This bill would take effect July 1, 2023, if passed.

The majority of states allow nurse practitioners to practice independently. More recently, many states have been giving more freedom and autonomy to PAs, as well. SB 1171 and HB 1272 are squarely within this trend. If you would like additional information, to read the language of the bill or to contact the sponsors or committee, you can find the information you need through this link. Information on the House’s version of the Bill HB 1272 can be found here.