January 6, 2013

162017_132140396847214_292624_nThere are 86,500 certified physician assistants (“PAs”) in the United States currently, which is a 100% increase from ten years ago. The number of nurse practitioners (“NPs”) has increased from 111,000 in 2003 to about 155,000 currently. PAs are allowed to prescribe medications in all 50 U.S. states (and controlled substances in 48 states) but are required to work under the supervision of a physician. NPs are allowed to practice without a physician’s direct supervision in 18 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) but may be required to have a formal collaborative agreement with a physician. PAs and NPs practice under the laws and regulations of their respective states. The number and use of PAs and NPs in providing health care services in the United States are expected to continue to increase in the coming years. The average yearly salary for PAs and NPs is over $90,000.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse Practitioners have been providing primary, acute, and specialty health care to all types of patients in the United States for almost 50 years. Their professional duties may include assessing patients, ordering diagnostic tests, interpreting diagnostic tests, diagnosing patients, providing treatment plans for patients, and prescribing medications for patients. Over 600 million patient visits are made to NPs each year in the United States. Ninety-eight percent of NPs are female and the average age of NPs is 48, with 49% averaging 12.8 years in practice as a family NP. Ninety-six point 5 percent of NPs prescribe medications, writing an average of 20 prescriptions every day.


Physician Assistants

Physician Assistants are medical professionals who work under the supervision of a physician. Physicians delegate duties to PAs, and within those range of duties, PAs use autonomous decision-making for patient care. Like NPs, PAs can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to prescribe medications. The average length of a PA education program is 27 months. PAs complete more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency medicine, and psychiatry, with an emphasis on primary care in ambulatory clinics, physician offices, and acute or long-term care facilities.


Nurse Practitioner Malpractice Claims And Physician Assistant Malpractice Claims

Most nurse practitioner malpractice claims and physician assistant malpractice claims involve their employers being named as medical malpractice defendants for their alleged inadequate supervision of the NP or PA or when the NP or PA practices beyond the scope of their training. While physicians may delegate certain tasks to NPs and PAs, they remain responsible for their NPs and PAs actions and omissions, even if they never saw or treated the patients themselves.

While the risk of medical malpractice may be lower for NPs and PAs because they spend more time with patients and score higher in patient satisfaction ratings, they do not have the same extensive training as physicians and may practice beyond their areas of expertise. For medical malpractice claims reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank from 1991 to 2007,  there was 1 medical malpractice claim payment for every 2.7 active physicians (37% of physicians), 1 medical malpractice claim payment for every 32.5 active PAs (3.1% of PAs), and 1 medical malpractice claim payment for every 65.8 active and inactive advance practice nurses (1.5% of advance practice nurses). The mean medical malpractice claim payment for physicians was 1.7 times higher than for PAs and 0.9 times higher than for advance practice nurses.


If you or a loved one may be the victim of nurse practitioner malpractice or physician assistant malpractice, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney who may be willing to investigate your possible nurse practitioner malpractice claim or physician assistant malpractice claim for you and represent you in a malpractice case, if appropriate.

Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be willing to assist you with your nurse practitioner malpractice claim or physician assistant malpractice claim.

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