BOSTON (SHNS) – Keeping in place a pandemic-era policy that gave physician assistants greater workplace and supervisory flexibility would help Massachusetts navigate a spiraling health care workforce crisis, its legislative sponsor said Thursday.

Addressing a crowd of physician assistants clad in white coats before they fanned out to lobby elected officials, Rep. Christine Barber pitched a bill she filed alongside Sen. Julian Cyr (H 2135 / S 1354) as a way to get more boots on the ground in critical roles. Physician assistants typically need to have a “supervising physician” on file with the state, and a March 2020 executive order from Gov. Charlie Baker temporarily lifted that requirement to allow PAs to be more quickly redeployed to different areas or settings with higher needs.

The policy is set to expire on May 11 with the end of the public health emergency declaration, and Barber’s bill would effectively codify it into law, allowing PAs to practice at the top of their license and giving institutions more ability to redirect them, according to a summary. It would not allow PAs to practice outright independently.

“We’re all talking about the health care workforce, we’re all looking for solutions, and you guys are the future of the workforce and one of the solutions to the challenges we face in hospitals, in primary care and in so many health care settings,” Barber told the dozens of physician assistants.

The Massachusetts Association of Physician Assistants highlighted the Barber and Cyr bills as one of its legislative priorities during Thursday’s lobby day, alongside bills that would allow PAs to work in limited services clinics like CVS Minute Clinics (H 2217), enable them to authorize psychiatric holds (H 2007), and prohibit employers from requiring PAs to sign non-competition agreements (H 1950)