Physician Licensure Laws

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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What are Physician Licensure Laws?

Physician licensure laws are laws that require doctors to have a certain amount of training, education and competence in medicine before practicing medicine. A typical medical license requires that a practicing physician have: 

Every state has its own physician licensure laws. Physicians must be licensed to practice medicine in the state where the patient they are treating is located. The federal government does not grant medical licenses.

Why Do Physicians Have to Be Licensed?

Physician licensure laws exist in order to protect public health and safety. Licensure laws allow states to assure that physicians practicing there have a certain degree of competence. The laws also let states evaluate the quality of care its physicians provide.

Do I Need More Than One License?

Many states require that a physician have a license from their state before the physician can practice inside that state. Since there is no federal medical license, a physician must have multiple licenses in order to practice in multiple states. Preferably, a physician should have a license from each state that the physician practices in.

Does Obtaining a License Require a Criminal Background Check?

This will differ from state to state. As of 2012, thirty-seven states require a criminal background check for a medical license:

Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

What are the Consequences of Physician Licensure Laws?

Physicians that are licensed are subject to the rules and regulations of the licensing agency. Failure to comply with the ethical and professional guidelines can result in the physician having his license suspended, restricted or taken away.

Physicians that practice medicine without a license are also subject to strict penalties under state law. These penalties can include having one's license taken away, fines, and even criminal prosecution. In medical malpractice cases, proving a breach of duty will become much easier.

What If a Physician Wishes To Treat a Patient Who Is Outside the State?

This will usually come up if the patient has never been to the state that the physician is licensed in. In these cases, known as telemedicine, the physician is advising and treating the patient through long-distance communication. States typically have special licenses for physicians who wish to engage in telemedicine while inside that state. Many states require that a physician have a license in order to treat their citizens. Thus, multiple licenses may be required to practice telemedicine.

Do I Need a Lawyer for my Physician Licensure Problem?

If you are a physician having trouble with your state's licensing board, an experienced attorney can help you resolve the conflict. If you are a patient who feels that your physician was improperly licensed, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you file a complaint and sue for damages.

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Last Modified: 01-07-2013 11:17 AM PST

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