The Sekhmet Writing Project 4/12
America’s profit-driven health corporations havepushed physicians out of the discussionsabout America'shealthcare system andfound a cheaper alternative by mass-producingNPPs. They pay little attention to education standards. Physicians advocate efforts for patient safety.
Many years ago while my husband and I attended a wedding, I found myself sitting next to and speaking to a former World War II pilot. Though he appeared to be in his late eighties his memory would give a different perception. His memory was sharp. Riveled mine though sixty years his junior.
Albert stood five feet and ten inches tall. He had silver hair with a well-kept beard. His dapper suit stood the test of time and looked as though it came straight off of Cary Grant. He not only chose a bow-tie in lieu of a traditional tie but it was made from ostrich feathers. Albert spoke of three things: his life as a pilot, his passion for flying, and his love for his late wife. I sat for almost an hour listening to him and the stories he had acquired throughout his life. What intrigued me the most were the stories he shared pertaining to his career as a commercial airline pilot. Mainly because I found so much similarity in his passion for pursuing safety for the passengers he flew with my passion as a physician to advocate for the safety of my patients.
At the time when a new physician graduates medical school, they pledge themselves to the Hippocratic Oath. Which is to say many things, however none more important than the following:
Do no harm, hold sacred the patient-physician relationship, and teach the secrets of medicine to the upcoming generations of future physicians.
In the last couple of decades, the healthcare system has been controlled less by those with the highest level of training (the physicians) and more so by profit-driven healthcare corporations. For many reasons (of which I discuss in an earlier essay in Physician Outlook titled: The Hippocratic Oath 2.0) healthcare administration has wedged themselves in-between this sacred oath physicians take and the care we provide to patients, making it more difficult than ever to practice medicine. When speaking to Albert, I learned that my profession was not alone in the oath we take.
I also learned that we weren’t the only profession that strived to uphold the oath we swore ourselves to. In America, there exists a large shortage of physicians. This is a complex situation that is deeply rooted in federal funding that has not increased since the 1980s. As a result, America has a critical shortage of physicians on its hands. However, instead of fixing this problem by expanding educational opportunities to produce more physicians annually, the profit-driven system has found a (perceived) cheaper alternative by mass-producing NPPs (non-physician providers) like nurse practitioners.
Decades ago, the education of a nurse practitioner was vetted by the brick and mortar institute which produced them. However today exists hundreds of strictly on-line nurse practitioner programs that aim for one goal: produce a mass-quantity of NPPs. The problem with this solution means that the quality of education received gets sacrificed and many graduating today are grossly unprepared to manage even the simplest of medical conditions. As a result, this has placed patients in a frightening position they are completely unaware of. In twenty-four American states/territories, patients are receiving medical care from individuals who have been granted the authority to practice medicine independently, though the education that some received has neither been accredited by the Board of Medicine nor standardized by the Board of Nursing.
In our conversation, Albert and I spoke about this. I asked, “As a well-seasoned pilot, what would you do if authority was given to a group of individuals to fly commercial airplanes that carry hundreds of passengers with each flight, who earned their pilots license from an on-line program and whose only experience flying an aircraft was through shadowing experienced pilots, never actually flying one them self?” His response, “If that ever happened, I would only travel by boat, train, or car. But that would never happen because no path in this country exists where an individual can take a shortcut to becoming a pilot.” When I told him this was happening in America’s healthcare system, he was aghast. “You are in a tough spot, kid,” he said. “And now that I think about it, so are a lot of Americans.” He was spot on. At the time of our conversation, what was yet to come to fruition was a much-needed advocacy group that would help shed light on this ever growing issue that was only beginning to surface.
Enter: Physicians for Patient Protection
PPP is a grass-roots physician-led non-profit organization founded in 2017 by five female physicians, Drs. Rebekah Bernard, Carmen Kavali, Ainel Sewell, Amy Townsend and Purvi Parikh. The mission of this organization (as stated on their website): Ensure physician-led care for all patients and to advocate for truth and transparency regarding healthcare’s [non-physician] practitioners.