For the life of me I don’t know why the New York Times published Sandeep Jauhar’s essay, “Nurses Are Not Doctors,” in the Opinion Pages on April 30, 2014. His essay argued that nurse practitioners shouldn’t practice independently.
As a nurse practitioner it’s obvious that I wouldn’t agree with his opinion but his case was lame. He cited only one study, which was published in 1999. It showed that primary care patients seen by nurse practitioners had 25 percent more specialty visits and 41 percent more hospital admissions than those seen by physicians. Not only was the study dated, it was limited in scope. Come on Sandeep Jauhar. Come on New York Times.
Jauhar further suggested we need more primary care physicians (true) and his solution to encourage graduates to go into primary practice rather than specialize was to increase salaries. Read Shikha Dalmia’s article in Forbes, August 26, 2009: The Evil-Mongering of the American Medical Association, in which she discusses the effects of excessive physician salaries and the historical basis for the physician shortage, which only shows how ludicrous Jauhar’s suggestions were.
Finally, he concluded that nurse practitioners are essential but only “as a part of a physician-led team.”
Angered by the slanted and self-serving article with a title that I had hoped never to view again in my lifetime, and the fact that I thought this essay so beneath the New York Times to print, I wrote a Letter to Editor:
As a retired nurse practitioner, I am disturbed by Sandeep Jauhar’s Op-Ed piece: Nurses Are Not Doctors (April 30). Over the years doctors have criticized nurse practitioners’ practice. “If they want to be doctors, let them go to medical school” has been the American Medical Association’s mantra in spite of the fact nurse practitioners have never claimed that they wanted to be doctors.
What disturbs me is Dr. Jauhar’s focus on limiting NP practice at a time when our health care system has been shown to be inadequate. US life expectancy at birth, 71 years, is ranked 35th. Slovenia ranks 33rd. (WHO, 2013) We need to look at models where physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health care workers can contribute their collective skills to deliver superior health services to all Americans. Rather than propose primary-care doctors get paid more and be designated the leader of the team, I would suggest he, along with the AMA, encourage the expansion of collaborative practice with the end result being accessible, cost effective and appropriate health care for all.
My letter didn’t get published. However, the ones that did and were supportive of nurse practitioners were authored by those more credentialed than I. They made excellent points in debunking Jauhar’s disparaging comments. And the 852 comments on line appearing over the next 17 days, until the comment section was closed, tipped in support of NP’s. (I didn’t check all 852 but did a sampling of the responses.)
Finally, let’s accept the fact that nurses are not doctors and don’t want to be and further agree to allow NP’s to practice “to the full extent of their education and training.”
Now let’s see if the New York Times publishes an essay from a nurse practitioner’s point of view.