In Florida, to practice medicine an individual must become a licensed medical doctor through licensure by examination or licensure by endorsement. Florida does not automatically recognize another state’s medical license or provide for licensure reciprocity. Our Firm represents and advises physician clients who need help and guidance with the medical licensing process.
The Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for regulation of health care practitioners in Florida. The regulation of the practice of medicine falls under Chapter 458, Florida Statutes, commonly referred to as the “Medical Practice Act.” The practice act establishes the Board of Medicine, a variety of licenses, the application process with eligibility requirements and financial responsibility standards for a practicing physician.
The Board of Medicine also has legal authority to establish, by rule, standards of practice and standards of care for a particular setting. Such standards may include education and training, medication including anesthetics, assistance of a delegation to other personnel, sterilization, performance of complex or multiple procedures, records, informed consent and policy and procedure manuals.
be a graduate of an allopathic United States medical school recognized and approved of by the United States Office of Education and complete at least one year of residency training;
be a graduate of an allopathic International medical school and have a valid Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certificate and completed an approved residency of at least 2 years in one specialty area; or
Be a graduate who has completed the formal requirements of an international medical school except for internship or social services requirement, passed parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) or ECFM equivalent examination, and completed an academic year of supervised clinical training (5th pathway] and completed an approved residency of at least two years and one specialty area.
And both of the following:
All applicants for initial physician licensure must undergo a Level II background screening and submit a set of fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for the purpose of conducting a search for any Florida and national criminal history records that may pertain to the applicant. The results of the search are returned to the Healthcare Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse, which is part of the Agency for Health Care Administration and made available to the DOH for consideration during the licensing process. A physician licensed in Florida must undergo a level II background screening every 5 years.
If the physician has a criminal record there is a process by which he or she can obtain an exemption from disqualification from employment in Florida.
Obtaining a license to practice medicine in Florida starts with completion of an application and submission to the Division of Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) at the Florida Department of Health.
The staff of MQA reviews the application and processes it for the Florida Board of Medicine.
It is important to note that staff processes a high volume of medical license applications and assuming there are no problems with the application it is still impossible to predict the amount of time in which the state will grant a license. According to the DOH website it “could take up to 10 business days to issue your license after completion of your application.” Furthermore, the website goes on to state that it could take an additional 7 days after the issuance of the license in which to receive the actual license.
If the staff assigned to process a license application does not have all of the information they need, staff will mail to the applicant a “deficiency letter” approximately 30 days after receiving the application. The deficiency letter will give a deadline of anywhere from 10 to 30 days to produce the requested supplemental information to DOH staff. If the applicant does not provide supplemental information the application file will be closed.
When something in the application is missing from the submission a personal appearance before the credentials committee or the Board of Medicine is required. In such cases, the staff sends the applicant a notice of hearing which requests that the applicant appears before the committee or Board. Personal appearances by the physician applicant are required in instances where the Board has questions about certain matters. Some of the areas of inquiry if you are asked to make a personal appearance may include:
Most hearings that concern an application for medical license go before the Credentials Committee of the Florida Board of Medicine. The members of the Committee, most of whom are physicians, are given an opportunity to question the applicant about the application and any matter that concerns the requirements for licensure. The physician applicant is placed under oath and is given an opportunity to make a statement. During this time, the Committee members are often judging the applicant’s honesty and candor as well as credentials to practice. Along these lines, one should always prepare to testify before the Committee and not simply show up and talk to the members. In some instances, it is advisable to submit additional documentation to supplement the application, when necessary.
You should know that the Credentials Committee of the Board of Medicine is a forum just as a courtroom is, where testimony is received, questions asked by members, and judgments are made regarding whether an applicant is fit to practice. More particularly, the Committee must decide in the case of medical education and post-graduate training, if the applicant meets the strict requirements of the law.
In instances where the applicant has a past criminal history, substance abuse/alcohol problem, discipline in another state, or some other issue, the members of the Committee are trying to discern from the testimony of the physician if he or she is safe to practice medicine.
It has been our experience as practicing attorneys that the Credentials Committee hearings are about documentation, preparation and good communications with Committee members. Obviously, you have to meet all the legal requirements for a license, but often an applicant is not able to furnish information or articulate sufficiently an answer to a question the Committee member. This becomes problematic.
An applicant that has difficulty communicating with the members is in some instances viewed as not qualified or insincere. Similarly, if the members are not convinced by what they hear from the applicant they are not going to vote to approve a license.
In some instances, it may be advisable to ask the Committee to withdraw the application rather than have the Credentials Committee take a formal vote and reject the applicant.
The decision to hire an attorney to assist with the application process is an important one. In most instances, physicians complete, submit and have their application approved. However, when the applicant has issues similar to those previously mentioned it is important to seek advice from a health care attorney with experience with the process. Our Firm represents physicians with licensing and discipline matters in Florida.
Jeff has offered advice and representation to health care providers throughout Florida since 1989. He is the former Staff Attorney to the Senate Committee on Health Care in the Florida Legislature, where he helped draft laws relating to regulation of physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, chiropractors and many other licensed health care professionals. Mr. Howell has also represented clinics, hospitals, and other health care facilities. Howell served as the CEO/Administrator to a rural hospital and in 1999 was appointed Chairman of the Florida Hospital Associations Small and Rural Hospital Council.
Jeff represents licensed health care professionals with disciplinary issues in front of state regulatory agencies such as the Florida Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Jeff is experienced in helping individuals with background problems and licensing issues, including resolving licensing denials. He also represents health care facilities.
Jeff is a member of the Health Law Section and Workers Compensation Section of the Florida Bar. He is admitted to all State Courts in Florida as well as the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Atlanta), and U.S. Supreme Court. Since 2002, Jeff has served as an Adjunct Professor at Florida A & M University’s School of Allied Health Services where he teaches undergraduate and Masters level courses in Health Law, Legal Aspects of Health Care & Ethics, and Health Policy.
Jeff is available to consult with clients nationwide regarding health care law in Florida.
Howell, Buchan & Strong represents healthcare professionals and facilities.
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