By Patrick O’Brien, J.D., Legal Coordinator for the American Med Spa Association
Unlike many other professional licensing boards, the Texas Nursing Board provides a volume of guidance and answers on their website for nurses wanting to practice in a medical spa. In general, this guidance recognizes that that registered nurses (RNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) have a scope of practice that is defined partially by their educational background, level of competence, and knowledge. This flexibility seems to carry over to the Board’s position statement 15.9 on Laser Therapy.
Position statement 15.9 (available here), begins by acknowledging that the “use of laser therapy and the technology of laser use have changed rapidly” over the years. It goes further on to state that nurses play many important roles in laser therapy and that it may be within their scope of practice to administer such treatments. The statement lays out the basic requirements that the nurse needs to have the education, experience, and knowledge to perform the treatment and must perform it subject to a valid medical order and under appropriate supervision. All through this section references are made to lasers, laser therapy, or laser energy. However, the seeming broadness of this position is quickly undermined by the single use of one term: non-ablative. Non-ablative is used only once in the statement and by its inclusion it excludes many laser skin resurfacing treatments from RNs and LVN’s potential scope of practice.
Recently, Sam Pondrom an attorney with the law firm ByrdAdatto, spoke with the Board of Nursing regarding this language in 15.9 he says “The Nursing Board was very clear: that there are no plans to remove the (non-ablative) language from the statement and that they don’t feel a (RN or LVN)’s educational background prepares them to accept these assignments.”
This limitation to non-ablative lasers in the position statement appears to be in response to an older practice guideline from the Texas Medical Board (TMB). This TMB guideline was adopted in 2003 but has since been withdrawn and at the time it prohibited physicians from delegating any ablative laser procedures to others. However, the Nursing Board’s statement retains the restriction and in 2013 only removed reference to the withdrawn TMB rules (see here for a discussion of the 2013 amendments). Currently, no other rule or law prohibits a physician from delegating an ablative laser procedure to a nurse. However, position statement 15.9 makes it clear that it is not within the scope of practice for an RN or LVN to accept such a delegation. It remains to be seen when The Board of Nursing will again recognize that “the use of laser therapy and the technology of laser use have changed rapidly” as they had previously stated in the opening line of 15.9.
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