ER patients expect doctor's care, not NP's or PA's

Most patients who show up at hospital emergency rooms don't want to be treated by just any white coat.

Eighty percent of ER patients expect to see a physician, according to an article published August's American Journal of Bioethics, American Medical News reports. The finding came from a survey of 500 ED patients at three teaching hospitals in Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Some patients would rather wait two or more hours to be seen by a physician for something like an ankle injury. Even for relatively minor problems, such as cold symptoms, just over half (53 percent) would consent to seeing a physician assistant. Patients also expressed a preference for a fully trained physician, not just a medical resident.

Just who is seeing a patient can be unclear, especially if NPs and other "physician extenders" waltz around in long white coats, small name tags, and stethoscopes.

Because these patients have expressed a strong preference for physicians and deserve more information on who is caring for them, healthcare providers should disclose their identity and level of training, the study's lead author Dr. Gregory Larkin, professor of emergency medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, told American Medical News.

As a common courtesy, healthcare professionals should introduce themselves, notes Dr. Connie Ulrich, associate professor of bioethics and nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. "Any time we can be transparent," she said, "we should be."

To learn more:
- see the American Journal of Bioethics abstract
- here’s the American Medical News article

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