Impact of Executive Order N-39-20 on Professional Licensing “Waivers”

This blog addresses the legal impact of Executive Order N-39-20 on healthcare providers and waivers of certain licensing requirements.

Executive Order N-39-20

On March 30, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-39-20 designed to expand California’s health care workforce and recruit health care professionals to address the COVID-19 surge. Health care professionals with an active license, public health professionals, medical retirees, medical and nursing students, or members of medical disaster response teams in California are now eligible for waivers of specific licensing requirements which will allow them to join the new California Health Corps.

Interested medical and health care professionals can visit to register for the California Health Corps. They are recruiting the following types of medical and health professionals:

• Physicians (MD, DO), including medical residents
• Pharmacists
• Dentists
• Nurse practitioners
• Physician assistants
• Nurses (RN, LVN, CAN), including nursing students
• Behavioral health professionals (psychiatrists, psychiatric technicians, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, LCSW, LMFT, LPCC)
• Respiratory therapists
• Paramedics
• Medical assistants
• Emergency medical technicians

Those enlisted will be paid and given malpractice insurance coverage.

N-39-20 casts a broad net and attempts to mobilize large parts of the medical and health professional workforce that may have been ineligible to work for various reasons previously. It allows the Department of Consumer Affairs to issue waivers that individual license holders can apply for in order to expedite the resolution of licensing issues. Due to the complexity of this Executive Order, we have broken it down and analyzed it to provide further clarity.

The following is a breakdown of the waivers and their application. All waivers apply only for the duration of the declared state of emergency in California, unless stated otherwise.

This Executive Order applies to a huge cross-section of California’s healthcare infrastructure and workforce yet provides little information. Essentially, it suspends specific regulations that affect healthcare professionals and institutions to allow them to utilize as many resources as possible to fight COVID-19. This Executive Order omits details regarding individual governmental agencies affected by these changes. These agencies must publish guidelines on their websites giving the specifics about how these changes will be carried out.

Therefore, if you are a health or medical professional seeking to practice via the waivers outlined in N-39-20, the first place you should check is the corresponding Department’s website to learn the specific criteria they are using to implement this Order. The second place you should go is to determine if you are eligible.

California Health Corps Eligibility

To be eligible for COVID-19 emergency medical staffing roles, you must:

• Be 18 years of age or over
• Be eligible to work in the United States
• Have a valid driver’s license or passport, and a social security card
• Have a valid California License for clinical practice (if you are an M.D., D.O., etc.)
• OR are a medical resident or nursing student
• Have no negative licensure/certification actions (for licensed/certified professionals)

Luckily, much of the guesswork regarding eligibility, placement, etc. is simplified through the California Health Corps registration process, which is also found on their website. The Department of Public Health will review an applicant’s skills, experience, location preferences, and interests to match placement needs.

Who is This For?

If you are a medical resident, a radiologist with an expired certificate or one from out of state, or a physician who has not completed credentialing for a specific application, you may be able to jump in and begin practicing medicine with the help of Executive Order N-39-20 and California Health Corps. It may also allow health care providers to utilize more staffing resources without incurring legal liability. It is not for those seeking a way to circumvent the suspension or revocation of their license due to disciplinary action by a licensing board, as stated explicitly on the California Health Corps website.


Expiring Licenses

Currently, there are only two waivers available on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) website. The first is DCA-20-01 for Continuing Education requirements, which applies to health and medical workers licensed under Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code (“Healing Arts”) whose licenses expire between March 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020. It allows them to waive any requirement to take and pass an examination or take continuing education to renew their license. This waiver does not apply to any continuing education, training, or examinations required by a disciplinary order against a license. The licensee must satisfy these waived requirements within six months of the order.

Restoring or Reactivating Licenses

The second waiver is DCA-20-02, which waives statutory or regulatory requirements for those seeking to reactivate or restore a license originally issued under Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code regarding continuing education or the paying of reactivation fees. This helps those with retired, inactive, or canceled licenses to avoid prohibitive fees and lengthy continuing education requirements if they want to return to their practice. This waiver only applies to those licensees whose retired, inactive, or canceled status has been in place no longer than five years.

Waivers Generally

Per the DCA, waivers are expected to take between 4 and 7 business days to be approved. These waivers may apply to those licensees currently on probation, depending on the waiver. The DCA recommends contacting your licensing board and probation monitor to learn more.

The DCA clarified that even if a waiver is used to delay license renewal fees, that license renewal date will not change moving forward. Other details, such as the duration of a waiver, whether they apply to applicants for licensure, or their effect on out-of-state licensees depends on the text of that particular waiver.

Given the vast scope of N-39-20, we should expect the DCA to publish additional waivers as they are approved. We recommend you keep checking the DCA’s website, as new waivers could appear any day.

If you have additional questions about this new Executive Order or how COVID-19 is changing the medical-legal landscape, please contact our expert legal team at Simas & Associates. Please call us at 888-999-0008 or email us at