Law & Medicine

Liability with nurse practitioners and physician assistants


Question: A nurse practitioner evaluated an elderly patient who arrived in the hospital clinic with a 3-day history of cough, tactile fever, myalgia, and malaise. Several members of the patient’s family have the “flu.” His temp was 99.8 degrees, and the chest x-ray was negative. The NP diagnosed a viral upper respiratory infection and discharged the patient without antibiotics. The supervising physician verbally agreed with the NP’s diagnosis and treatment, but did not personally examine the patient. A week later, the patient was hospitalized for pneumonia and sustained additional complications of empyema, sepsis, and respiratory failure. The NP is an employee of the hospital, whereas the physician is an independent contractor.

Which of the following is incorrect?

A. All three parties – NP, physician, and hospital – will all be named as codefendants under various theories of direct and indirect liability.

B. NPs are only licensed to work under the supervision of a physician, and they do not have prescriptive authority.

C. The hospital is vicariously liable under “respondeat superior,” as the NP is an employee.

D. Under state law, the physician will likely share the NP’s liability, even if the physician had no contact with the patient.

E. Medicare services rendered by an NP cannot be billed under a physician’s National Provider Identifier (NPI) unless certain specific requirements are met.


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