Medical Tuesday Blog

A Review Medical Journals and Issues: Non-Physician Clinicians

Jul 9

Written by: Del Meyer
07/09/2017 11:13 AM 

In Medical Practice, there are a number of para-professionals who help us. Many appear in long white coats and are thought to be physicians. Some Physician Assistants actually refer to themselves as doctor. At times some of our patients are somewhat confused as to whom they are seeing. There are instances when a patient realizes that he is not really seeing a physician and the return appointments are made to the same person, they take a variety of actions.  Some quietly accept this as a new form of medical interaction; some complain to the office manager; some quietly leave the practice and seek an office where they are assured of seeing a Medical Doctor (MD); and some write complaint articles to the press, the medical board, or to their Congressional Representative. The President of the Association of American Physician and Surgeons has written a very timely article to help avoid confusion.

AAPS Statement of Philosophy Regarding Non-Physician Clinicians

Marilyn Singleton, M.D., J.D., for AAPS Board of Directors   

The medical world has become increasingly complex and confusing to patients. Non-physician clinicians who may be caring for them include physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses—typically nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, as well as allied health professionals who have obtained a Doctor of Philosophy or other doctorate in their professions, including but not limited to pharmacists, audiologists, and physical therapists.

In many instances, such medical personnel are mistaken for physicians, particularly if they introduce themselves as “doctor,” or fail to correct the patient who mistakenly assumes the examiner is a physician. Busy medical settings such as emergency rooms, hospitals, and clinics lend themselves to such confusion.

With several post-graduate years of medical training, physicians have broad authority and considerable latitude in the scope of their medical practice. Clinicians with less extensive and multi-faceted training need a clearly defined scope of practice in keeping with state statutes and the requirements of professional ethics.

  • We believe that it is unprofessional conduct for medical professionals to use any letter, letters, word, words, term, or terms either as a prefix, affix, or suffix indicating that they are entitled to engage in a medical practice for which they are not licensed
  • We believe it is in patients’ best interest to be informed of the qualifications of the clinicians who will be providing their medical care.
  • We believe patients have the right to withhold consent to be treated by non-physicians.
  • We believe physicians should support their patients in exercising their rights regarding treatment by non-physician clinicians.

Suggestions for compliance:

Personnel should wear clearly identifying nametags indicating Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants . . .

Read this entire article and others in the Journal of the AAPS

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