By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, Founder/Director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
The issue of who can and cannot legally operate cosmetic lasers troubles many medical spa and medical aesthetic facility owners and operators. After all, there is no universally accepted licensing procedure for cosmetic laser technicians, and most state medical boards have not taken the time to rule on the subject. However, the Georgia Composite Medical Board has been proactive in addressing the idea that cosmetic lasers are something of a hybrid of medical and non-medical treatment, and it offers cosmetic laser practitioner licenses that permit estheticians, registered nurses, and cosmetologists to legally fire lasers under certain circumstances.
It is difficult for some medical spa owners and operators to come to terms with the fact that some non-invasive laser treatments are considered medical treatments, and therefore require a physician, nurse practitioner (APRN), or physician assistant (PA) to not only perform an initial consultation, but also fire or supervise the firing of the laser. To many, this seems like an unnecessary use of these medical professionals’ time and resources.
The Georgia Composite Medical Board decided to address this issue by creating a state licensure procedure to clarify who can legally fire certain types of cosmetic lasers, and what procedures need to occur in advance of these treatments.
First of all, it is important to clarify that this licensure covers only a few types of cosmetic laser treatments: laser hair removal, intense pulsed-light devices, and non-ablative light-based devices. All other cosmetic laser treatments are beyond the scope of this licensure and must be treated as medical procedures, with accompanying initial exams and proper supervision. However, the simple, relatively inexpensive cosmetic treatments this licensure does cover account for a large percentage of the laser treatments administered in the U.S., so the impact of this licensure can be significant.
Georgia’s law creates two levels of cosmetic laser practitioner licenses:
Assistant laser practitioner: This license allows people who hold licenses as PAs, licensed practical nurses (LPNs), APRNs, registered nurses (RNs), estheticians, and master cosmetologists to conduct the cosmetic laser treatments mentioned above without a doctor seeing the patient first or a even being on site. In order to earn this license, a candidate must complete certain courses from accredited laser training schools and meet certain requirements from the state.
A licensed assistant laser practitioner does not require any supervision when performing the treatments covered in this license, which helps improve a medical spa’s flexibility. Having a physician onsite to supervise basic treatments such as these is a major hurdle that these businesses have to clear in order to improve their profitability, and Georgia has provided the mechanism to make that possible.
Senior laser practitioner: This license permits PAs, RNs, and APRNs to supervise unlicensed individuals who are firing lasers. If an LPN or esthetician, say, does not have an assistant laser practitioner license and a physician is not onsite to supervise, an RN with a senior laser practitioner license does provide sufficient supervision from a legal standpoint, thanks to this aspect of Georgia law. Again, this gives the practice the ability to treat a patient without needing a doctor to see him or her, which could potentially save it a great deal of money.
As with the assistant laser practitioner license, someone seeking a senior laser practitioner license must complete training courses from state-approved laser training schools. In addition, he or she must have at least three years of experience, as well as three years of clinical or medical technological experience.
The laser’s edge
From AmSpa’s perspective, the availability of these licenses is a major positive, because it provides some clarity in an area of medical aesthetics where, often, there is none. It’s something we in the legal profession always seek—a definitive statement that illustrates exactly what one must do to be compliant. We’re always supportive of efforts by a legislature or medical board to clarify things that need it.
Also, this law creates the potential for medical spas and laser centers in Georgia to see more patients, as well as potentially open more locations with a higher patient flow, because they don’t need to circulate the patients in to see a doctor or NP. However, this still only addresses a small number of laser services, so if you operate in Georgia and have questions about remaining compliant while administering other laser treatments, consult your local health care attorney or work with AmSpa’s national law firm, ByrdAdatto. AmSpa members can view the Georgia legal summary
to get an overview on the state’s medical aesthetic laws.
To learn more about this law and others that affect medical spas in the Peach State, sign up to attend AmSpa’s Boot Camp in Atlanta on November 6 and 7. Click here
for more information and to register for the Boot Camp. We hope to see you there!