We already have folks who complete a defined educational program in nursing and we have some nurses who then go past that level of education and take extra training to become advanced practice nurses. State laws vary in how much autonomy such folks have but the very name "mid-level " providers informs us that they are not at the same level as physicians.
So one wonders what would be the reason for existence of a new professional one that is a doctorate level nurse. Here we are talking about a clinical doctorate- not the PhD s that some nurses obtain in nursing educations. There is a so-far-fairly small- movement in the land which proposes that this new category of clinical practitioner is what the health crisis needs . The argument goes that there are not enough primary care physicians and too many nurses leave nursing for more rewarding careers and this doctor-nurse position will fill that need and we are told by the apparently self appointed spokesperson for that movement that:
A nurse practitioner with a DNP has achieved many of the competencies [of physicians]but through nursing education they will have the same skills in identifying a disease state and treating it but it is a different hybrid of care.
Apparently this doctor-nurse position will be rewarding and attractive to nurses even though the argument that primary care is becoming less and less attractive .
Dr. Mary Mundinger is the Dean of the Columbia University School of Nursing and holds a doctorate in Public Health (not the DNP degree she is proposing) and in this era of increasing awareness of real and perceived conflicts of interests, one has to notice that she is a director for United Health Group holding -as of Dec.11,2007- 32,000 shares.
The AMA has taken spoken out in opposition to this new clinical professional. In this era of increasing awareness of real and perceived conflicts of interests, one has to notice that the DNP would be competition for physicians.
So what is behind this doctor-nurse movement? Is it ,as Dr. Mundinger suggests,, the paucity of primary care docs and the purported exodus of RNs from nursing or can we see what is really going on if we follow the cynical but venerable follow-the-money rule. Here is DrRich's take from his June 17,2008 blog entry.
Having taken such careful pains to make primary care medicine so exquisitely unattractive to present and future physicians as to assure that the growing “PCP shortage” will become the next real medical crisis, the healthcare system is now grooming its solution to this manufactured crisis, namely, the doctor-nurses. These doctor-nurses will fulfill all the criteria the healthcare system desires for its practitioners of primary care medicine (no matter what healthcare reforms we may end up with). They will be “doctors” who are duly “certified” in primary care medicine by respected testing organizations, who have just enough training to diagnose and treat the average patient (i.e., the ones with high blood, low blood, fat blood and sugar), and who will cheerfully, unquestioningly (and with far better compliance than MDs - what with their traditions, attitudes, etc. - can ever hope to offer), follow whatever guidelines are handed down to them by the experts. And they will do it all for less pay and with less lip than the now-obsolete physician PCPs. These new practitioners of primary care medicine will be a perfect fit.If you accept this analysis you can appreciated that Dr. Mundinger could have a conflict of interest as she is a board member of a organization that could profit from the care and feeding of this new breed of health care professional,namely (at least for a while) they will work cheaper.