Many advocates of nonphysician practice argue that we need to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice independently because of a “provider” shortage. The mantra “access” seems to supersede all other arguments – including concerns over patient safety. But is ‘access’ really all it’s cracked up to be? The answer is no, and here is why. A 2018 Lancet study analyzing 137 countries found that more people die worldwide due to POOR QUALITY care than die due to a lack of access to care (reference below).
Linda Anegawa MD, an internal medicine and obesity specialist, discusses concerns over safety when non-physician practitioners provide healthcare independently without physician supervision, and describes her own story of how a trigger point injection by a nurse practitioner resulted in a punctured lung. Rather than sending her to the emergency department, the nurse practitioner told Anegawa that her shortness of breath was just “procedure anxiety.” The truth was that the NP had caused a pneumothorax, or punctured lung, which can be fatal if left untreated.