Q: One of our teachers recently suffered a work-related injury, which required her to take family medical leave and entitled her to workers’ compensation benefits. We received a work status report from the teacher’s doctor’s office indicating that our teacher may return to work without restrictions. The report was completed and signed by a Registered Nurse with the doctor’s permission. May we accept the work status report and return the teacher to the classroom?
A: Yes. New legislation now allows a treating doctor to delegate authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or APRNs, to complete and sign work status reports, provided that the treating doctor delegated the authority to complete and sign the work status report to the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.
The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (“TWCA”) is codified in Chapter 408 of the Texas Labor Code and generally provides employees who experience a work-related illness or injury eligibility to receive temporary income benefits during a sustained absence if certain conditions are met. See Tex. Lab. Code § 408 et seq. One such condition, for example, is that health care providers must create, maintain, and produce upon request by qualified individuals (i.e., the employee, the employee’s attorney, the employer’s insurance carrier, etc.) records and reports related to the injured employee seeking worker’s compensation benefits. See Tex. Lab. Code § 408.025. The Texas Workers’ Compensation Work Status Report, commonly referred to as a work status report or DWC Form-073, is documentation health care providers may provide to an employer. The work status report is particularly important because it allows the injured employee’s health care provider to notify the employer regarding an injured employee’s ability to return to work.
The TWCA expressly provides: “A treating doctor may delegate to a physician assistant who is licensed to practice in this state under Chapter 204, Occupations Code, the authority to complete and sign a work status report regarding an injured employee’s ability to return to work. The delegating treating doctor is responsible for the acts of the physician assistant under this subsection.” See Tex. Lab. Code § 408.025(a-1). In short, therefore, the TWCA provides that a treating doctor or a licensed physician assistant acting under the authority of the treating doctor may complete and sign a work status report. Id. On April 16, 2019, however, the Texas Legislature voted and passed House Bill 387. The Bill, which became effective on September 1, 2019, amended Section 408.025(a-1) to allow a treating doctor to also delegate authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or APRNs, to complete and sign work status reports. This revised legislation is expected to be advantageous because it will allow nurse practitioners to increase their practice and provide more care to patients and reduce medical paperwork burdens for patients and physicians.
In the scenario above, therefore, the work status report completed and executed by an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with the treating doctor’s permission is sufficient to return the employee to duty. Under current law, the district is able to accept the work status report and return the teacher to the classroom if the report was completed and signed by the treating doctor or a licensed Physician’s Assistant or APRN acting under the authority of the treating doctor. For additional information regarding workers’ compensation procedures, please contact your local school attorney.