I was saddened to see an advertisement in the local paper for a new clinic which will be opening up. I'm very happy about the clinic and the fact that a good friend of mine will be the Nurse Practitioner (NP) there. She starts in a couple of weeks. Until then, another NP friend of mine is filling in. They had a ribbon cutting ceremony and pictures were taken outside the building for the local paper. This photo included staff members from the clinic, including a very professional-looking NP, the clinic manager, a "supervising physician," and some local "important people." All this looks great on the surface to the casual observer. Then I read the article. The only mention of the NP was to say that she is "a good listener." Well so what?? Plants are good listeners. Don't get me wrong, listening is a skill that all medical providers need to master, because most of our work is accomplished and proper diagnoses are made because we listen; but one must have an education and some experience with diagnosing and treating illness to go along with those listening skills. I happen to know this particular NP has excellent diagnostic skills, which is what a patient needs to be assured of when seeking out a healthcare professional. Why do you think patients seek out the most qualified person for the job when looking for a healthcare provider? I can listen to her all day, but if I don't know how to diagnose or fix the problem, I'm not of much use to the patient.
The second issue I have with this article is the fact that a medical doctor was interviewed for the article and will have very little to do with the operations of this clinic. You see, in Tennessee, nurse practitioners are required to have a doctor come in and sign off on 20 percent of our charts (100 percent of any charts where a narcotic is written). This does not mean we are working "under the doctor," as so many imply. We are working under our own license and our own DEA prescribing number. They are simply paid to review some charts and put a signature on them. You see how ludicrous this is. Don't get me wrong, the doctor they interviewed is a wonderful guy, and a great doctor. I simply find it so sad that we feel we must give patients the illusion that a "real doctor" is somehow involved in operations of the clinic.
For those of you who don't know, NPs have at least at Master's Degree, which is 6 years minimum. For many of us, it also includes several years as an RN before completing those years of school for the NP degree, which was a priceless part of my educational process. I want to spread the word that we are here to stay, we don't need to hide behind a doctor's name, we have one of our own. Patients have a choice to see us or not, we are not pulling the wool over their eyes or trying to be deceitful just to get patients.
Most NPs, like most MDs do a good job. I urge you to see the difference for yourself. You may not notice any. You may have a bad experience. You may find the provider you want to stick with as long as you live. I just ask that you know who you are seeing and that you give the credit to that person alone for the care they provide.