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California Could Expand Practice For Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants

— California lawmakers will be asked to consider whether to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat patients on their own. The idea comes as millions more Californians are expected to get health coverage next year.

Should nurse practitioners and physician assistants be allowed to operate independently? Some California lawmakers think so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nurse practitioner Tiffany Holm performs a routine physical on Willie Benjamin at the Tricare Outpatient Clinic-Clairemont Mesa operated by Naval Medical Center San Diego.

There just aren't enough doctors to handle the expected influx of newly-insured patients under health reform next year. That's why some lawmakers want to expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Under California law, these providers are required to work under a doctor's supervision. Encinitas family physician James Hay said there's a good reason for that.

"They do excellent work and give excellent care, but PAs come to us every single day, asking questions about what to do with certain more complicated patients," he explained.

Still, some argue doctors shouldn't be the only health providers who are allowed to diagnose and treat diseases. In fact, some lawmakers are suggesting pharmacists and optometrists should also be given the authority to serve as primary care providers.

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