The article about allowing nurse practitioners to practice medicine without a physician collaboration hits close to home ["Filling doc shortage," News, March 17]. I am a physician, and my wife is a nurse practitioner.
When I attended medical school, the degree of nurse practitioner was in its infancy. It was considered a reasonable means of extending physicians' time as new regulations eroded the time a physician could spend with patients.
However the degree was never considered to be a qualification for complete independent practice of medicine. Many nurse practitioners have master's or doctoral degrees, but that doctorate is in philosophy. Some obtain the newer doctor of nursing practice degree. Nether is considered a doctor of medicine.
The level of training cannot compare to a residency program in which a physician must complete at least three years, averaging 60 to 80 hours per week, in education and patient care. Board certification requires a year of intensive study.
Studies that state that there are equal health outcomes from nurse practitioner or medical doctor care are deficient in one aspect. I call it the "punt up factor." Physicians are seeing patients with more severe illnesses and more complicated cases.
I do not mean to discredit nurse practitioners. They are valuable assets to modern medicine, but the level of education is not equal to that of a physician.