Thursday, May 8, 2008

Some Brief History

Once again, an article about retail health appears on the WSJ Health Blog site and the discussion ends up being about NPs versus MDs. Under that thread, a whole firestorm is set off when someone by the alias of "real doctor" claims that patients have returned to his office following visits to the retail clinics because they "were not treated appropriately." I certainly felt the need to respond to this arrogant attack on NPs and did so as "Real Nurse Practitioner."

So what follows is the typical rhetoric from purported physicians and includes: if you want to be a doctor go to medical school, being a doctor means that you have to spend 11 to 15 years of post graduate training after high school, wearing a stethoscope and a white coat doesn't make you a doctor and the list goes on.

NPs don't become NPs to "play" doctor. This is a profession that was borne from a need of primary care and pediatrician shortages in under-served areas. In 1965, the first NP program was headed up by nurse pioneer Loretta Ford and pediatrician Henry Silver at the University of Colorado to address this need. The rest as they say is history. However, we still are subject to inaccurate and baseless attacks from other "professionals." If the care that we provide is unsafe, prove it. If we are harming patients rather than helping them, I'd take a step back and examine my role in the profession. As far as I know, these doomsday scenarios aren't happening. In fact, it's the contrary. Patients are choosing to see nurse practitioners because of the way that we synthesize nursing and medical care. We focus on the whole person when treating specific health problems and provide extensive health information on the impact of those problems on patients, their families and the community. We work as part of the health care team to care for our patients.

I would not nor would I insinuate that NP care is better than physician care. It's different yet has the same goal and outcomes. It wasn't long ago that osteopathic physicians were treated as second class citizens in medical communities and some still are. I guess it would be naive of me to think that NPs would be accepted with open arms. However, I didn't think that we'd be subject to school yard, sand-box type attacks.

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