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Legal Memorandum: Delegation by a Physician in FL

Issue: Whether an unlicensed medical equipment technician, while in a physician’s office, may remove a rectal catheter from a patient at the request of a licensed physician under the laws of Florida?

Area of Law: Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Law Compliance
Keywords: Removal of rectal catheter; Unlicensed medical equipment technician; Delegation
Jurisdiction: Florida 
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Fla. Stat. § 458.331(1)(w), § 485.3485; Fla. Admin. Code chap. 64B9-14
Date: 01/01/2007

Florida laws governing healthcare practitioners neither expressly prohibit nor allow the removal of a rectal catheter by an unlicensed person.  A physician’s general power to delegate should however allow the described activity.

Under Florida law it is grounds for disciplinary action for a physician to delegate professional responsibilities to a person when the physician “knows or has reason to know that such person is not qualified by training, experience, or licensure to perform them.”  Fla. Stat. § 458.331(1)(w) (2006).  Therefore, it should be permissible for the physician to delegate removal of the catheter to the technician so long as the physician knows that the technician is qualified by experience and/or training to perform that act.

Note that while Florida law does recognize medical assistants, who may be certified, they are defined as “multiskilled” professionals who are “dedicated to assisting all aspects of medical practice under the direct supervisions and responsibility of a physician.”  Id. § 485.3485 (emphasis added).  Therefore, a technician in such a situation would not fall within that category of practitioner.  Additionally, Florida regulations allow RNs and LPNs to delegate tasks to “unlicensed assistive personnel,” but they envision “regular assignments or delegated tasks or activities” “based on institutional or agency job duties” and would not be applicable here.  See generally Fla. Admin. Code chap. 64B9-14 (2006).

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