When you go to a doctor’s office you may be surprised to find that you wind up being treated by a nurse instead of the doctor himself. However this is common in those offices – particularly the offices of family practitioners or primary care physicians. These types of nurses are known as certified nursing practitioners, or CRNPs. They are registered nurses who achieved advanced degrees and are qualified to perform many of the functions of a doctor such as: comprehensive physical examinations, providing immunizations, managing high blood pressure, ordering and interpreting X-Rays and laboratory studies, making diagnoses, and determining if a referral to a specialist is needed for your treatment.
What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a doctor?
A doctor is able to perform more invasive procedures than a nurse practitioner though. Likewise, in Pennsylvania the nurse practitioner must have a written collaborative agreement with a physician which addresses: the availability of the physician to the nurse practitioner, a plan for emergency services, and a regular review of the charts and records of patients under the nurse practitioner’s care.
Therefore it is not unnatural for a nurse practitioner to see you at your primary care physician’s office if that physician is out or busy with other patients. The fact that your primary care physician had you treated by a nurse practitioner instead then is not negligence in itself barring a scenario where you have a more emergent or complex medical condition the physician may be better trained to handle. The nurse practitioner should be able to diagnose, manage, and treat most conditions your primary care doctor can, and refer you to a specialist if necessary like your primary care doctor.
What should you do if you or a loved one was harmed due to poor treatment by a nursing practitioner?
If you believe you or a loved one was harmed from poor treatment by a nursing practitioner the question instead is whether a reasonably competent and careful nursing practitioner would have given you similar treatment? For example did you have a condition which required certain medication being prescribed that wasn’t? Or should imaging studies such as X-Rays or CT scans been ordered to determine if you have a broken bone or other internal injury that were not ordered? Or did you need a referral to a specialist for further treatment but never received such a referral? A nurse practitioner should be able to do all of the above, and if they do not they could be negligent.
Even if the nurse practitioner could argue they were not qualified to make certain treatment decision that does not put an end to your claim. There still could be negligence on the part of the physician reviewing the nurse practitioner’s treatment records. That doctor may have missed something in the records he or she should have caught. Perhaps the doctor was going through the records too quickly, and just signing off on them while barely looking at them. Or perhaps the nurse practitioner did a poor job of taking down the patient’s signs and symptoms in the records. There also could be the chance that the nurse practitioner was unqualified for her job based on her background and training.
Whether there was negligence on the part of the nurse practitioner, the doctor the nurse works with, or both will take a thorough review of the records by attorneys experienced in handling medical malpractice claims, as well as consultation with medical experts. The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling such claims. If you feel you or a loved one suffered harm due to the negligence of a nurse practitioner the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call at 215-525-6824.