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Are Nurses a Safe Substitute for a Doctor?

Are Nurses a Safe Substitute for a Doctor?
February 27, 2019

Currently in Florida, an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) can act as, what the medical profession refers to as, a doctor extender.  The argument is the ARNP can extend the services of the doctor without a doctor ever seeing the patient. The ARNP performs the examination, history and physical and makes the diagnosis of the patient with the “supervision” of a physician. This practice has resulted in many doctors simply reading the treatment plan of the ARNP after the patient leaves the office and signing off.  

Legally, it is questionable if the ARNP has the necessary training to diagnose since they did not attend medical school. Many times the diagnosis could be wrong because the doctor did not actually conduct the examination of the patient.

ARNP’s can be employees of the hospital, independent contractors of the physician, or practicing independently under the license of a physician. Depending on the employment status, many ARNP’s either do not carry liability insurance, or have limited insurance coverage from their employer.

Currently , SB 972 in in the Florida Legislature. This potential law would expand the scope of practice for ARNP’s in Florida. Under this law, an ARNP could open a clinic and treat patients without physician supervision.  There are no provisions for notification to the patient that they are not being treated by a medical doctor. There are no requirements that the ARNP carry insurance. The standard of care for an ARNP lower than a medical doctor. If a mistake is made and a patient is injured, the ARNP is required to report the mistake to the Florida Department of Health, but there is no provision that requires notification to the patient or public access to this information.

This potential law may increase access to routine medical care, but it does very little to protect the patient. Patients should be proactive in their care and insist on going to a medical doctor for important decisions about their health. ARNP’s are very useful in medicine, but should not be allowed to take the place of a Doctor.

If you’ve had an experience with an ARNP that resulted in a negative health event that may be the result of negligence call The Law Office of Gloria Seidule for your free case evaluation. You pay no fees unless there is a recovery.