Alert to Pathologists’ Assistants Regarding New York
Friday, December 21, 2012
The State of New York has again begun issuing statements that raise questions about the legality of Pathologists’ Assistants practicing in New York. At this time, the AAPA advises any members who in the past have obtained any sort of clinical laboratory license in New York to renew and maintain their licenses. Additionally, be advised that Pathologists’ Assistants currently working in New York without a license or thinking about taking employment in New York might be told to obtain a state license.
New York has for years offered conflicting statements regarding the status of Pathologists’ Assistants, and the AAPA has been actively lobbying for the interests of our members for years. Here is a brief history of this evolving situation.
In 2005, the New York Legislature passed the Clinical Laboratory Technology Act creating only three license categories for lab workers: Clinical Laboratory Technologists, Clinical Laboratory Technicians, and Cytotechnologists. After the law took effect in 2006, the state recognized that the law was deficient in that no license category was provided for other specialties in the laboratory. In 2006, the AAPA sent a letter to the state Commissioner of Health asking that a separate category for Pathologists’ Assistants be created under the portion of state law that recognizes Physicians Assistants and other specialty practitioners. Our request was denied.
Another bill was introduced to the New York legislature in 2007 to create a license for Histological Technicians (as New York calls it) in order to remedy problems caused by the 2006 law. At that time, the AAPA and ASCP contacted legislators to ask that a category for Pathologists’ Assistants be created, or that at least the state regulatory agencies be permitted to create new license categories if needed. The bill passed and took effect in 2008, but without any of the modifications we requested. At that time, histotechs became licensed, but no provision was made for Pathologists’ Assistants.
The AAPA continued a dialogue with state regulators regarding Pathologists' Assistants. In 2009, we were notified in writing by the state Education Department that the Clinical Laboratory Licensing law did not apply to Pathologists’ Assistants and that no license was required in order to practice in New York. From 2009 until 2012, Pathologists’ Assistants have had no difficulty in pursuing work in New York without a license.
In the last few months, however, we have received several communications from state officials indicating that the state has reversed its stand on Pathologists’ Assistants practicing in New York. The Education Department is now saying that a license is required to practice in New York. Regardless of the stand taken by the Department of Education, it is the Department of Health that inspects laboratories in New York, and the Health Department has not begun to cite any laboratories that employ Pathologists’ Assistants. The messages we are receiving from the state are thus confusing.
At this time, there is a grandfathering period open for two clinical laboratory licenses in New York. One is for the Clinical Laboratory Scientist license, and the second is for Histological Technicians. This route to licensing, however, might prove to be of little or no practical use for Pathologists’ Assistants for several reasons. First, the grandfathering process provides a time-limited license expressly for the purpose of allowing someone to work in New York while studying and taking an examination for CLS or HT. The license will expire on September 1, 2013, and cannot be renewed. Secondly, in order to apply for this temporary license, the applicant must prove that they have obtained education that is equivalent to that required for a CLS or HT license, and the New York Department of Education determines whether or not an individual’s education is “equivalent”. We have no reason at this time to believe that the state would certify a Pathologists’ Assistant’s training as “equivalent” to either the CLS or HT educational requirements.
Over the years, the AAPA has worked to protect the interests of our members in New York, and we are continuing to do so. We are actively reaching out to state officials in both the Education and Health Departments, and we will be lobbying with legislators as necessary to clarify the status of Pathologists' Assistants in New York and to ask for reasonable, practical regulations regarding these issues. We are also reaching out to the ASCP and other interested groups for support in this matter. If you have any direct contact with New York state officials or legislators or other significant parties/individuals regarding these issues, please communicate that information to the AAPA as well so that we may best serve the interests of our members in New York.