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There are currently about 36,011 physicians (doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathic medicine), licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina. Of these, about 75 percent have a North Carolina address—and most of these practice in the state. Every licensee was reviewed and evaluated by the North Carolina Medical Board before being licensed.
A Medical License Is a Privilege
Every physician licensed by the Board is granted an awesome privilege. Because of training and demonstrated competence, she or he is permitted to diagnose and treat illness and injury, prescribe sometimes dangerous, even potentially lethal, substances, and invade the body itself in an effort to promote healing or relieve physical or mental distress. It is an understatement to say this privilege carries a heavy responsibility. You, as a patient, must feel confident that a licensed physician, your physician, has the skill and ability to meet that responsibility. It’s the task of the Board to provide that confidence by doing all in its power to see only qualified physicians are licensed.
Evaluating the Physician
The Board collects and verifies the credentials of physicians applying for licenses in North Carolina. Except for graduates of foreign medical schools, applicants must have graduated from a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and have successfully completed at least one year of accredited graduate training. They must also have passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or its equivalent. Those who currently hold a license in another state may apply for licensure by endorsement. That is, should they meet all other requirements for licensure in North Carolina, the examination they took to obtain their earlier license may be accepted (or endorsed) in North Carolina. Physicians who are graduates of schools that are not accredited by the LCME or the AOA (foreign medical schools) must have been individually certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, have successfully completed at least three years of accredited graduate medical training, and have passed the USMLE or its equivalent. Applicants for a medical license may be interviewed in person by the Board or one of its members. Each must provide a recent photograph certified by his or her medical school to prevent imposture. Background and credentials are carefully checked through medical schools, graduate training programs, national data systems, and other state medical boards. Should an applicant not have been formally tested within the past 10 years, he or she will usually be required to pass a special examination or show an acceptable continuing medical education record prior to licensure.
A physician may also establish a profile with the Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS). FCVS was established in September 1996 to provide a centralized, uniform process for state medical boards to obtain a verified, primary source record of a physician’s core medical credentials. FCVS obtains primary source verification of medical education, postgraduate training, examination history, board action history, board certification and identity. This repository of information allows a physician to establish a confidential, lifetime professional portfolio with FCVS which can be forwarded, at the physician’s request, to any state medical board that has established an agreement with FCVS, hospital, health care or any other entity.
Following original licensure, each physician is required to register with the Board every year within thirty days of his/her birthday.
Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners
The Board also licenses physician assistants (PAs) and approves nurse practitioners (NPs). Both must be graduates of approved programs and meet the requirements of North Carolina law and occupational regulations. PA and NP applicants, too, are carefully reviewed by the Board. Physician Assistants must also complete an Intent to Practice Form online.
No Specialty Licenses
Except in very unusual circumstances, the medical license grants a physician the privilege of practicing medicine and surgery in all their branches. It does not designate a specialty (such as obstetrics or family medicine). Most physicians select a specialty during their training, however, and most of those achieve certification in a specialty following licensure. Certification is granted by private agencies (specialty boards) that set the requirements for their specialty fields and assess the qualifications of applicants. Information about specialty board certification may be obtained from the American Board of Medical Specialties (1-866-ASK-ABMS) and the American Osteopathic Association (1-312-280-7445).
Though the Board is not authorized to act directly against those who practice without license or approval in one of the fields it regulates, it may seek an injunction against them and it does report them to the Office of the Attorney General for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. Unlicensed practice is a misdemeanor in North Carolina.
You Can Check on the Status of a Physician, PA, NP, CPP, and LP
The status of a physician, PA, NP, CPP, and LP may be checked (licensed? currently registered? disciplined? etc.) on our Web site in the LicenseeSearch section or by telephoning the Board (919/326-1100 or 800/253-9653). The public files on practitioners against whom disciplinary actions have been taken may also be seen on the Board’s Web site in the LicenseeSearch section.