On behalf of the physician assistant and nurse practitioner professions, I and many of my colleagues wish to extend our gratitude for having the fortitude to print the truth (“Let nurse practitioners, doc assistants provide primary care, panel urges,” Modern Healthcare.com, March 4).
Most of the problems for which patients present to healthcare professionals do not need a “Moses who can part the Red Sea.” Most problems are fairly similar, sometimes basic, require knowledge of a differential diagnosis and the acumen to know when the patient needs to be referred to a specialist. This is why it is often touted that nurse practitioners and physician assistants can do 85% of what a physician does, because it is the truth.
The education is very similar, and the difference lies in a residency. That residency is not to be underestimated but is provided on a formula of years working in a specific area where one has the opportunity to see all of the red herrings and zebras.
We work well with physicians but certainly do not need their oversight for so many of the presenting symptoms that walk through the doors of emergency rooms and clinics everyday, and in doing so, add to higher costs and poor attitudes on behalf of patients and caregivers. No patient needs to or should feel denigrated by having to wait six hours in an emergency department and pay exorbitant costs for the pleasure.
I have been a physician assistant for 40 years, and I am a strong advocate for the family health system or the essence of patients receiving treatment in a medical home. Whether that “home” is owned and operated by an nurse practitioner/physician assistant or physician is not important. What is important is that the proper tests are done within the framework of national guidelines and that appropriate care is given and referrals made when they are indicated.
Do you know why patients love nurse practitioners and physician assistants? It's simply because we speak their language, take the time to sit down and describe their problems and how to both prevent and care for them. We offer assistance in getting them medications by being knowledgeable of pharmaceutical companies that have special incentives and programs for those who cannot afford medications and do not have health insurance.
Robert M. Blumm
Immediate past presidentAmerican College of CliniciansNatick, Mass.