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What is a “physician extender” and is it safe to be treated by one?

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

Patients may not recall hearing the term “physician extender,” but they may have been treated or cared for by one. The term refers to other medical personnel like physician assistants, advanced practice nurses or even midwives who perform work normally done by physicians. Advocates for using these mid-level staff in lieu of doctors claim that the use of physician extenders enables more patients to receive hands-on treatment by medical professionals, because doctors are not as readily available.  These practitioners may work independently or in conjunction with a physician.

Less training can mean more risk

Physician extenders are trained medical professionals with licensing, but they do not have the same level of training as doctors. Because doctors are in such short supply, physician extenders are typically used to cover the more mundane or straightforward types of treatment that doctors normally handle. However, sometimes the use of a physician extender rather than a physician can put a patient at risk due to:

  • Poor screening: Hospital and medical practice administrators may not take the time to fully verify certification or recommendations from educators or previous employers.
  • Lack of supervision: Hospitals and clinics often struggle with staffing, which means that physicians may not always have the time to check the extenders’ work.
  • Not following statutes and regulations: Connecticut has rules for what different types of physician extenders can do, but those practitioners may sometimes perform work they are not permitted to do.
  • Systemic issues: Health care facilities employ thousands of providers, so a lack of protocols and procedures may decrease the quality of care.
  • Communication: Physicians are extremely busy.  As a result, the physician extenders they oversee may hesitate to interrupt them with information or questions that may be important regarding patients.

Most patients prefer to be treated by a doctor

Physicians receive extensive training — more than APRNs and PAs.  Therefore, although there are many qualified medical professionals in practice, the use of physician extenders instead of physicians may result in worse outcomes.  If you or a loved one has been injured and believe that it was the result of an issue regarding treatment by a physician extender, contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney for assistance.