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Exploring Medical Professional Liability Risks for Physicians Who Oversee or Collaborate with NPs or PAs

May 11, 2023

Exploring Medical Professional Liability Risks for Physicians Who Oversee or Collaborate with NPs or PAs
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The Medical Professional Liability Association recently shared a summary of a Medscape article that we think is informative for our insureds. The article is geared toward a national audience. As a reminder, Louisiana physicians collaborate with NPs under a collaborative practice agreement.  

Court cases show that physicians continually underestimate their liability in supervising or collaborating with nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). Even in states with limited supervision or collaboration requirements, physicians may still be liable by virtue of employing the NP. Employed or contracted physicians assigned to supervise NPs or PAs are also affected, said William P. Sullivan, DO, an attorney and emergency physician. "The employed physicians' contract with a hospital or staffing company may require them to assist in the selection, supervision, and/or training of NPs or PAs," he said. He added that supervisory duties may also be assigned through hospital bylaws.

"The physician is usually not paid anything extra for this work and may not be given extra time to perform it," Sullivan said. But still, he said, that physician could be named in a lawsuit and wind up bearing some responsibility for an NP's or PA's mistake. In addition to medical malpractice suits, Sullivan said state licensure boards often sanction doctors for improperly supervising NPs and PAs. Licensure boards often require extensive protocols for supervision of or collaboration with NPs and PAs.

Arthur Apolinario, MD, a family physician in North Carolina, said his 10-physician practice, which employs six NPs and one PA, works under a collaborative agreement. "The agreement defines each person's scope of practice. You have to always figure that if there is a lawsuit against one of them, you as the supervising physician would be named," said Apolinario, who is also president of the North Carolina Medical Society. "We try to avert mistakes by meeting regularly with our NPs and PAs and making sure they keep up to date." (Medscape, 4/6)

The full Medscape article, "Malpractice Risks for Docs Who Oversee NPs or PAs," from April 6, 2023, by Leigh Page is available online. 


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