Alert To New Jersey Veterinarians-Amendments To Regulations Governing The Practice Of Veterinary Medicine

Fox Rothschild LLP

Fox Rothschild LLP

Veterinarians in New Jersey are hereby notified of amendments to existing regulations governing continuing veterinary educational requirements and supervision of veterinary students in training by state licensees.

First, continuing veterinary education (CVE) requirements have been amended to require one credit hour of CVE “in topics concerning prescription opioid drugs, including the risks and signs of opioid abuse, additional, and diversion,” beginning with the biennial renewal period beginning on June 30, 2019.  N.J.A.C. 13:44-4.10 (b)(3).

There was no discussion in the proposed rule — to which no comments were received — about the merits or intent of the proposed amendments.  Also unclear, is who would be qualified to provide such CVE, which presumably relates to addiction by humans – either veterinary clients diverting opioids prescribed for their pets, or veterinary staff.  Perhaps this is an example where, under the “One Health” banner, physicians could help educate veterinarian for the benefit of people and pets.  And notably, there will be a presentation on this topic at the NJVMA 2020 Veterinary Education Conference.

In the regulation there is also no discussion of or direction to veterinarians who may suspect opioid abuse, addiction or diversion in or from their clients (or staff for that matter).  Perhaps further amendments are needed to protect veterinarians if reporting such suspicious conduct in light of the overarching requirements for veterinarians to maintain confidentiality of veterinary medical records.

Another amendment receiving no public comment was adopted by the Division of Consumer Affairs, State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners on October 30, 2019, effective on Feb. 3, 2020.  This amendment requires a veterinarian who is supervising a veterinary student in their practice to: (1) notify the veterinary board of the intent to supervise; (2) obtain certain information from the student’s veterinary school; (3) notify the patient’s owner that the student is not a licensee and maintain that information in the patient record.  See, N.J.A.C. 14:44-4.13.

With the increase in veterinary schools relying on training of veterinary students in private practices, veterinarians should understand what liabilities they be exposed to when agreeing to supervise veterinary students and other volunteers.  See, e.g., Wodohodsky v. Hall, 573 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. Ct. App. 2019), transfer denied (Mar. 29, 2019), reh’g and/or transfer denied (Mar. 29, 2019), transfer denied (June 4, 2019) (affirming verdict against veterinarian in action veterinary student brought “against veterinarian and farm operators for negligent supervision” in which student was hurt on the farm and the court found “sufficient evidence established the existence of a common law duty on the part of veterinarian to exercise ordinary care in supervising veterinary student.”)

Veterinarians should consult with an attorney and their insurance carrier about any potential exposure to liability.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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