Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State faculty, students help pass new law boosting physician assistants

September 2, 2015

Some Indiana State University students and faculty played a role in the passage of legislation intended to make health care delivery more efficient by expanding the authority of physician assistants.

About 60 students and two faculty members from Indiana State's master's degree program in physician assistant studies testified in support of the legislation before the General Assembly and many returned to the Statehouse in August when Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law.

"This was important because it gave us a sense of responsibility for our careers and allowed us to be a part of something that is going to affect the entire state," said Alexia Brower of Vincennes, a first-year student in the 27-month program. "Every single (physician assistant) there and every single student there was not as much concerned for themselves as they were about improving health care for their patients."

The legislation extends from 72 hours to 10 business days the amount of time physicians have to review physician assistant charts and reduces the percentage of charts subject to review based on assistants' experience levels. The measure also expands the authority of physician assistants to write prescriptions and increases the number of physician assistants each physician may supervise from two to four.

As the state's population ages and many areas continue to experience a shortage of physicians, mid-level health care providers, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, have become more important.

Prior to the new law, "physician assistants were not as employable as nurse practitioners in Indiana because we had to have a lot more of our charts reviewed," said Nicole Heck, an instructor in Indiana State's program. "This makes physician assistants very employable in areas where physicians do not want to do a lot of chart review."

The measure reduces chart reviews from 100 percent to 25 percent in an assistant's first year and replaces a requirement for physicians to review 50 percent of charts in future years to a percentage agreed upon between doctors and their assistants.

Indiana has lagged behind other states when it comes to rules governing physician assistants and the new law "allows us to catch up with other states," said instructor Tanya Singh. "My supervising physician employs nurse practitioners in the nursing home and basically could not employ physician assistants under the previous legislation because he could not follow a physician assistant within 48 hours and co-sign all the charts."

The new law will allow more students such as Jenny Simatovich of Valparaiso, who will complete her degree in May, to remain in Indiana.

"Being able to market myself with the new legislation and letting health care providers know that it's not as much of a burden as it used to be really helps us out," she said.

Indiana State has graduated 88 physician assistants since its program began in 2011. Graduates in the most recent class of 29 boasted a 97 percent pass rate in the Physician Assistants National Certifying Examination.

"The majority of our graduates were actually going outside the state due to the previous restrictions," said Heck. "This was a good move for Indiana."

Singh said there are many opportunities for physician assistants to be utilized.

"In the past few years, local physicians have gotten to know physician assistants a lot better and I'm getting many requests ... to provide them with graduates," she said.

"As a result of these legislative changes, our program would like to encourage more students from ISU and throughout Indiana to look into the increasingly bright prospects for physician assistants," said Dr. Russel Coutinho, director of the physician assistant program in Indiana State's College of Health and Human Services.

Photo: - Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation Aug. 11, 2015 expanding the authority of physician assistants in Indiana. Educators and physician assistant students from around Indiana were on hand, including (from top right) Jack Turman, dean of the Indiana State University College of Nursing and Human Services; Dr. Russel Coutinho, director of the masters degree program in physician assistant studies at Indiana State, and Johm Pommier.

Contact: Dr. Russel Coutinho, director, physician assistant program, department of applied medicine and rehabilitation, College of Health and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-8336 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or