Licensure authority defines who has the legal responsibility to grant a health professional the permission to practice their profession. Historically, under Article X of the U.S. Constitution, states have the authority to regulate activities that affect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens including the practice of healing arts within their borders. Laws governing individual health care providers are enacted through state legislative action, with authority to implement the practice acts delegated to the respective state licensing board.
The purpose of licensing health care professionals is to protect the public from incompetent or impaired practitioners. Practicing medicine requires a certificate of licensure from the state in which the practitioner is working and may require licensure in the state where the patient is located. Similar laws cover other practitioners such as nurses, pharmacists, therapists and other professionals dispensing health care services. A practitioner must be licensed, or follow state reciprocity rules, prior to working in a state. In light of telemedicine, licensure requirements can be complicated. Before practicing medicine, the practitioner needs to ensure that his/her activity is legally sanctioned and protected.