Most people in Louisiana are unaware of Senate Bill 187. It is the most important health care bill to face the state legislature this year. SB187 addresses the ability of nurse practitioners to diagnose, prescribe and treat patients without the supervision of a medical doctor. If this bill passes, the “doctor” you visit when you’re sick may not be a doctor at all.
I am currently an internal medicine resident and completed my medical degree at the LSU School of Medicine. As medical doctors, my colleagues and I will complete 11 to 15 years of academic and clinical experience before we are allowed to practice unsupervised medicine.
Physicians attend four years of medical school with over 4,000 hours of class time and three to seven years of post-graduation training before we have the privilege of treating patients without oversight. If this bill passes, nurse practitioners can do the same after one or two years of post-graduation training including roughly 700 hours of class time. But why does this matter?
Health care access cannot be our sole goal. While physicians welcome anyone who can provide health care to our communities, we have to ensure both quality and access are delivered to every patient.
Medical students obtain an extensive body of medical knowledge after the first two years, but none would or should practice without supervision.
Even at the end of four intense years of medical school, medical doctors, despite having much more training than a nurse practitioner, recognize that they still do not possess the necessary wisdom and reasoning to care for patients alone.
Only after completing years of post-medical school training under direct supervision are physicians allowed that privilege. Learning to deliver high quality care takes years of dedicated mentoring, observation and study.
Medical education matters. Nurse practitioners are part of our health care network, but they are not medical doctors.
The extra years of schooling and clinical training make a critical difference between the way doctors and nurse practitioners treat disease.
Nurse practitioners rely on programmed formulas to treat patients. Medical doctors recognize the limitations of these formulas and are able to personalize care. There is no reset button in the medical field.
Every situation where we believe ourselves to be more skilled and knowledgeable than we actually are could produce harmful consequences to someone’s parent, grandparent, child or friend.
When a student first enters medical school, he or she recites an oath to do no harm. If my loved ones were sick, I would want a physician to treat them, and that is why I urge everyone to call their state representative and tell them to vote no to nurse practitioner autonomy.