Washington Regulation of Physicians

Washington state law stipulates that no person may practice or represent himself/herself as practicing medicine without first having a valid license[i].  Any person, who has graduated from a school of medicine located in the United States or the Dominion of Canada, shall file an application for licensure with the commission.  An applicant must fulfill the following requirements prior to applying for the license.  The applicant must have graduated from a school of medicine approved by the commission and must have completed two years of postgraduate medical training in a program acceptable to the commission[ii].  In addition, the applicant should be of good moral character and physically and mentally capable of safely carrying on the practice of medicine.

For the purpose of assessing the mental capability, the commission may require any applicant to submit to an examination and require any additional information it deems necessary[iii].  The Uniform Disciplinary Act governs the matters of issuance and denial of licenses to physicians.

In the case of foreign graduates, the formalities are different.  Applicants who have graduated from foreign institutions must produce sufficient evidence to prove that s/he has completed a resident course of professional instruction equivalent to that required general applicants and that s/he has passed the examination given by the educational council for foreign medical graduates and is proficient in English language[iv].  Excepting some applicants who have been granted licensure through the provisions of RCW 18.71.090 or 18.71.095, applicants for licensure must successfully complete an examination administered by the commission to determine their professional qualifications.  Further, the commission has the sole responsibility for determining the proficiency of applicants and, in so doing, may waive any prerequisite to licensure not set forth in the provisions of this chapter.

The license must be renewed by paying the required licensing fees and in accordance with the administrative requirements[v].  It is to be noted that a physician who resides and practices in Washington and obtains or renews a retired active license shall be exempt from licensing fees imposed under this section[vi].  The applicant must comply with the rules governing mandatory continuing education requirements for renewal of licenses and may be met in part by physicians showing evidence of the completion of approved activities relating to professional liability risk management.  The number of hours of continuing education for a physician holding a retired active license shall not exceed fifty hours per year[vii].

The administrative procedures and requirements for activating an inactive license are set forth in Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 43.70.250 and Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 43.70.280.  The general provisions relating to disciplinary action against a person with a license shall be applicable to a person with an inactive license, except that when disciplinary proceedings against a person with an inactive license have been initiated, the license shall remain inactive until the proceedings have been completed[viii].

A limited license may be issued to an applicant without examination.  A limited license is issued to persons who have been accepted for employment by the department of social and health services or the department of corrections as physicians, who are licensed to practice medicine in another state of the United States or in the country of Canada[ix].  An applicant for a limited license shall fulfill all the requirements specified in Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.050.  It is to be noted that such license shall permit the holder to practice medicine only in connection with patients, residents, or inmates of the state institutions under the control and supervision of the secretary of the department of social and health services or the department of corrections[x].

The commission may issue a limited license to a resident physician if the applicant meets all of the requirements for licensure set forth in RCW 18.71.050 except for completion of two years of postgraduate medical training, and that the applicant has been appointed as a resident physician in a program of postgraduate clinical training in Washington which is approved by the commission.  The resident physician shall practice medicine only under the supervision and control of a physician licensed in Washington and shall not engage in the practice of any other forms of medicine.
The commission may also issue a limited license to a physician applicant invited to serve as a teaching-research member of the institution’s instructional staff and the license shall permit the recipient to practice medicine only within the confines of the instructional program specified in the application.   Such a license shall terminate whenever the holder ceases to be involved in that program, or at the end of one year, whichever is earlier.  Upon request of the applicant and the institutional authority, the license may be renewed.

The commission may initiate disciplinary action against persons exempt from licensure upon a finding of an act of unprofessional conduct or that the individual is unable to practice with reasonable skill or safety due to a mental or physical condition as described in RCW 18.130.10.  Such a physician shall be entitled to the same rights of notice, hearing, and judicial review as provided licensed physicians[xi].

[i] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.021.

[ii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.050.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.051.

[v] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.080.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.085.

[ix] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.095.

[x] Id.

[xi] Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 18.71.230


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