The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in a medical malpractice case present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this medical malpractice/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
DR. BLACK'S DECLARATION OMITS VITAL FACTS
Dr. Black's declaration, through careful wording, attempts to create the picture that when any patient presents to XYZ Hospital and they are seen by a nurse practitioner, a supervising physician is automatically involved every time, working hands-on with that patient, second-guessing the nurse practitioner, and fully handling and managing that patient's care. Nothing can be further from the truth. Nurse practitioners, by their special status as mid-level practitioners are allowed (and even expected) to have a certain degree of autonomy in rendering care to patients. In fact, page 1 of the Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Nurse Practitioner Practice states that a nurse practitioner is still practicing legally when the supervising physician is 50 miles away.
Further, XYZ Medical Center's Standardized Procedures for Nurse Practitioners, that Dr. Black has mis-cited in his declaration, in actuality goes to great lengths to describe the degree and type of autonomy that nurse practitioners have. On page 4 of the Standardized Procedures, at the very onset of the General Policies, the first sentence states it is the intent of this document to authorize nurse practitioners at XYZ Medical Center Emergency Department to implement the Standardized Procedures without the immediate supervision or approval of a physician. (Emphasis added.) Page 6 of the General Policies provides that the nurse practitioner will be responsible for the preparation of a complete medical record for each patient contact per existing office policies. Moreso, under the "Supervision" heading, the nurse practitioner is authorized to implement the Standardized Procedures in this document without the direct or immediate observation, supervision or approval of a physician, except as may be specified on individual healthcare management standardized procedures.
Under the "Consultation" heading, the rules regarding when a nurse practitioner must consult with a physician clearly state on page 7 the situations wherein a physician must be consulted. These requirements are mandatory for nurse practitioners only. Thus, it is up to the nurse practitioner to seek out the physician for a consultation, if such is required under these guidelines, not the other way around. It is not a physician's duty to seek out a nurse practitioner and provide an unasked-for consultation. Physicians are not required to wander the halls, looking for patients whose very existence they are unaware of, seeking to provide consultations every time a nurse practitioner treats a patient.