As the costs of healthcare go up, many healthcare providing entities and companies such as practice groups and hospitals are trying to find ways to reduce costs. Let’s face it, doctors themselves are very expensive. Logically, this is one place to downsize which is why there is a significant amount of alternative positions such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners appearing more and more in New York.
These professionals can be paid less than a doctor and be used to treat a large percentage of patients. This is particularly useful in family practice groups where a physician is not always necessarily needed for every patient or condition.
However, the caveat is that physician assistants must always practice under a physician. And a physician can only supervise a set number of physician assistants at a time. All of the treatments, diagnoses, and medications that a physician assistant does needs to be confirmed by a physician. Thus, when a physician assistant makes a medical error which constitutes medical malpractice, the supervising physician is usually also at fault.
Nurse practitioners are a little different in New York. Each state has set limitations on what a nurse practitioner can and cannot do. In some states, a nurse practitioner can actually do almost everything but invasive procedures (like surgeries) without a physician. These means a nurse practitioner can prescribe, diagnose, and treat patients.
In New York, a nurse practitioner can diagnose and treat patients, but still needs physician oversight to prescribe medications and perform most invasive procedures like surgeries. This means that a physician still needs to supervise a nurse practitioner, and certain mistakes by the nurse practitioner constituting medical malpractice can render the physician also liable. Whereas other mistakes will not create liability for the physician.
Given the scope of what a nurse practitioner can and cannot do in New York, it is most likely that the physician will be liable for any medication errors such as prescriptions or counter-indications which can cause horrific, debilitating, and deadly side effects. As would a physician likely be liable for a procedure like a surgery, as the physician will likely be taking a very active if not primary role in those procedures.
Since there are many different roles and procedures which a physician is and is not required for a nurse practitioner, if medical malpractice is caused on a patient the best practice could be for the victim to sue all parties potentially involved and commence the action that way. A party can be let out later and after disclosure occurs.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.