Physician’s assistants provide many benefits to a doctor’s office. A skilled assistant can be an effective way to increase patient satisfaction and reduce your workload to a more manageable size.

However, physicians who take on physician’s assistants also take on professional and legal responsibility for that assistant’s performance. This means that your license could be on the line for the illegal actions of your physician’s assistant. This includes when your physician’s assistant engages in drug diversion, stealing or prescribing drugs for reasons beyond medical need.

What are the consequences of a drug division charge?

While only the person who illegally dispensed or used prescription drugs holds criminal liability for drug diversion, you may incur civil liability as the supervisor. Depending on the situation, you may also face further consequences for failing to report missing or stolen drugs.

Every situation is different. If a Board prosecutor believes your conduct, or lack of oversight, contributed to the diversion, you could face professional sanctions.  This can involve suspension or even loss of license.

What can you do to help safeguard your license?

Several measures can help prevent drug diversion in your office:

  • Keep close attention to medical record documentation.Patients who continue to complain of pain even though the physician’s assistant prescribed high doses of pain medication may be a red flag for diversion. In other cases, medical records can be the first thing to slip when physician’s assistants unfortunately become addicted to the pain medication. Pay attention to gaps in charting or charting that is not as detailed as it should be.
  • Educate all staff on the dangers and consequences of drug diversion.Though drug diversion information is now included in more medical schools and certificate programs, that education alone is not enough. Regularly train all staff on the warning signs of drug diversion and create a culture where it is easy to report possible abuses.

If you worry that your physician’s assistant’s action may reflect on you, talk to an experienced medical licensing attorney to discuss your options.