Physicians Assistants: Help for Overworked Doctors, Or Potential Risk To Patients?

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Physicians Assistants Help for Overworked Doctors, Or Potential Risk To PatientsPhysician assistants and nurse practitioners are such a common part of today’s general medical practices that it is hard to believe that these positions have been around for less than fifty years. When the first physician assistant (PA) and nurse practitioner (NP) programs were developed in the mid-1960s, many of the first graduates of these programs were armed forces personnel who had trained under a fast-track program during war time. Now, both of these jobs are so common that when patients walk into a general medical practice, it is more common to be seen by a PA or an NP than an actual medical doctor.

The explosion of PA and NP programs across the country has been both a blessing and a curse to the practice of medicine. Both types of medical professionals spend several years in postsecondary education, and can help alleviate the caseload of overworked doctors. However, neither a PA nor an NP have a medical degree, and can be more prone to making mistakes and misdiagnoses than actual doctors.

Can A PA or NP Be Sued for Malpractice?

In many medical practices, PAs and/or NPs work side-by-side with medical doctors. In most instances, a patient may never see the doctor if he or she is being treated successfully by the PA or NP.

In California, state law requires that a PA or NP is supervised by a medical doctor. Neither has the authority to practice on their own without supervision, though they are allowed to practice with a great deal of autonomy. For example, a PA is allowed to write prescriptions, and may even perform minor surgeries if he or she is given permission by the doctor.

For this reason, PAs and NPs are often the first line of treatment for the average patient. When a patient’s medical issues are outside the scope of a PA or NP’s responsibility, that health care professional has an obligation to contact the medical doctor and request additional help.

When a PA or NP makes a mistake or misdiagnosis, he or she can be liable for malpractice. Most PAs and NPs will carry their own medical malpractice insurance in case an injured patient makes a claim against them. These claims usually occur when a PA or NP fails to consult with the supervising doctor, or begins to practice or treat patients outside of his or her education and training.

In some circumstances, the doctor supervising the NP or PA can also be legally responsible for failing to effectively supervise the NP or PA. Since both of these positions require a doctor’s supervision, a doctor who fails to monitor the NP or PA can be directly responsible to the patient when an injury or misdiagnosis occurs.

While every medical professional strives to provide quality patient care, many still fall short. When an NP or PA makes a mistake which causes your injury, you deserve compensation.  At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., our dedicated medical and legal staff will evaluate the error or injury, and will help you develop a medical malpractice case. Dr. Bradley I. Kramer is both a medical doctor and an attorney, and has the unique expertise you need on your side to fight for adequate compensation after an accident or injury.

For a free consultation, contact us by calling (310) 289-2600 and speak with an experienced Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney today.

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