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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.

Aired 2/12/13 on KPBS News.

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

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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Avatar for user 'dmittman'

dmittman | February 12, 2013 at 1:14 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

I have been a PA for 38 years. No way we are running to the physician all day to ask questions as reported in the radio report. And so do physicians to physicians-they call it consults or referrals and send you all around town. That interview should have had an NP or PA commenting also. I just need to say that like everyone else; most of us are very good, care very much and can do a damn good job. That physician was unfair. Maybe he pays very low? Maybe he hires people with one year experience and when they get good they leave? Maybe their group does not allow people to function at their highest level?
Did someone point out the "Flight Surgeon" of the Year for the US Army was a PA?
Or that we are running clinics all around the country in areas where people have no medical care and are truly sick, or are in charge of hundreds of our troops care in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Fair is fair.
Dave Mittman, PA, DFAAPA
Vice President
PAs For Tomorrow

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