Why More Assistant Physicians Should Be Utilized in Primary Care

Last month, I wrote about “What is an Assistant Physician?,” and also introduced you to Amber Milward, MD AP. It’s been three weeks since she started with us here at Direct Primary Care Clinics, LLC in Osage Beach, Missouri. So, what do I think?  I think I need to explain why Assistant Physicians should be utilized in Primary Care.

Dr. Milward’s knowledge is far superior to that of any nurse practitioner student that has previously rotated through my office. This is no surprise, since Dr. Milward matriculated from an accredited medical school. The healthcare industry is beginning to take notice of Assistant Physicians’ strength of education. According to the Primary Care Coalition Issue Brief: Collaboration Between Physicians and Nurses Work, the number of clinical hours (hands-on training seeing actual patients) for MDs is four times that of those getting a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP).

So when it comes down to it, who would you prefer to be treated by if you’re sick – Someone with 500-1500 combined clinical hours, or someone with 6,000? Of course, there is another big difference in that certified physicians (like myself) have also completed at least three years of residency in primary care – including another 9,000-plus hours of intense, grueling training.

Of course, specialty residency training delivers a superior level of overall knowledge and expertise. I am not saying there is anything wrong with Nurse Practitioners, merely pointing out the vast difference in training and education. I have yet to work with or meet a Nurse Practitioner or PA (Physician Assistant) who does not acknowledge the extent of my education and training, as well as appreciating what they can learn from me. I believe they would each likewise feel there is something to learn from those MDs who have completed medical school, but have not completed residency training.

Imagine a practice consisting of a Family/Internal Medicine/Pediatrics physician, supported by an Assistant Physician (MD), a Nurse Practitioner (APRN or FNP) and a Physician Assistant (PA). Patients would have confidence that the care they receive from such a collaborating practice would be complete and thorough, as the definition of a collaborating practice is under the umbrella of supervision of the residency-completed overseeing physician.

To my fellow residency-completed primary care physicians: I suggest that you consider hiring an Assistant Physician as a mid-level provider in your practice. It would be a bit more like the “good ol’ days,” when physicians were trained as apprentices. The extent of their knowledge base is fantastic, and they are closer to medical school than you; they’ve more recently dissected the human cadaver. They have more recently practiced over and over the one-handed tie. And they are eager to work and to learn everything you can teach them about what you know best: how to deliver excellent individualized primary medical care. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!