Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“The physician will ...”

People who know me well will not be surprised that I was recently pretty fired up by some otherwise benign statements. I tend to be a little sensitive when it comes to physician-centric verbiage. I have a healthy respect for my MD counterparts, and it frustrates me to be sidelined or to feel our role as NPs is not being supported. (I also tend to shudder at the terms “mid-level” or “physician extender.”)

So what set off my tirade a few days ago? I read the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) standards for Patient Center Medical Home (PMCH). Have you read them? If you work in a PMCH or Family Health Initiative (FHI) clinic, you should. You might be surprised at what we NPs no longer need to do as, apparently, “the physician will” do everything!

A little background is needed, I suppose. All U.S. Air Force (USAF) facilities, as well as most other armed-services facilities, are in the process of changing their clinical operating model from one where the goal is to see your Primary Care Manager (PCM) to one where you are able to see only your PCM or his or her team partner (a team typically made up of an MD and a “mid-level” NP or PA). Under the new system, providers were rumored to have more control over their schedules, creative templating was encouraged and we were no longer restricted to the traditional, clinic-wide template of 20 or 30-minute appointments. A minimum number of per-week appointments was established, and we were given the flexibility needed to ensure that each of our populations was taken care of. We were allowed to do this as uniquely as we chose.

All USAF facilities are inspected by the AAAHC, and careers can be made or ended by inspection results. As an additional duty—yes, as in “in addition to doing all the patient-related care”—I review the inspection criteria and, through a series of self-inspections, make recommendations to the senior management team regarding our adherence to the standards on which we will be inspected.

So, on a rare day when no patients were scheduled—we were waiting for a planned base “incident” to happen, so we could prove our ability to care for a mass influx of “patients”—I took the opportunity to review the new PCMH standards from AAAHC. I was shocked to see how prejudiced the verbiage was and how it completely sidelined the role that NPs (and PAs, for that matter) play in today’s health care arena. The standards were completely based in physician-centric terms and gave the impression that physicians are the only deliverers of health care.

Get with the times, AAAHC! In some states, we can practice independently, hanging out a shingle and seeing patients without the oversight of a physician. If we seek accreditation in that instance, will we fail because there is no physician guiding the patient-care decisions?

It frustrates me that this national organization, one from which facilities seek accreditation, can be so close-minded about what is needed for health care to survive. Do we as NPs recognize the training and schooling that our MD counterparts must endure to practice? Yes! And we know our role in health care. and that most of us do not need a physician to direct that role. We are counterparts, members of a team, who work together to provide the services our patients need most. Does a team need a leader? Yes, sometimes it does, but in health care, that leader is often the most experienced member, not just the one with the MD behind his or her name.

I don’t know that this physician-centric rhetoric will ever change. A friend of mine (gasp–an MD even!) thinks that, as the “silverbacks” who currently head up these types of organizations move on and a generation that has trained alongside NPs comes to “power,” things will be different. I hope so. Only time will tell.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

No comments:

Post a Comment