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Michigan City Indiana Medical Malpractice Lawyer|is Dr. Responsible for Nurse Practitioner?

Guy DiMartino Oct. 31, 2014

Michigan City Indiana medical malpractice lawyer discusses a doctor's responsibility for a nurse practitioner's malpractice in Indiana.

Nurse practitioners and physicians assistants are much needed healthcare practitioners especially with the millions of patients that will be entering the healthcare system with Obama Care.

Nurse practitioners can practice independently as long as they practice within their training and have a collaborative practice agreement (CPA) with a physician. The CPA sets out the nature of the relationship between the doctor and nurse practitioner and usually requires the doctor to be available for consultation and review of a certain number of patient charts.

A recent case will show how this works in the real world.

Vories, a nurse practitioner, has a CPA with Dr. Hippensteel. Nurse Vories did not work for Dr. Hippensteel they both worked for a clinic owned by a hospital system. The CPA required Dr. Hippensteel to be available for consultation. He would audit and review a random sample of 5% of the nurse practitioner's patient's files.

A patient came into the clinic and saw Vories. He did not see Hippensteel at any time. The patient died of pulmonary embolism from a deep vein thrombosis. The patient's representative sued Vories and Hippensteel. The doctor asked the court to dismiss him from the lawsuit because he did not owe the patient a “duty of care”. The doctor argued that he never saw the patient, Vories never consulted him, and he never reviewed the patient's file. The trial court dismissed the doctor from the lawsuit finding that he did not owe the patient a duty of care.

The Indiana Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court and said:

We cannot conclude that Dr. Hippensteel entered into a physician-patient relationship with each of NP Vories's patients merely because he entered into a CPA with NP Vories.

What does this mean for Indiana patients?

Nurse practitioners are independent healthcare providers and exercise their independent clinical judgment and ability when treating a patient. A doctor who enters a CPA with a nurse practitioner will not be responsible simply because of the agreement. The doctor would have to do some affirmative act to establish a doctor-patient relationship.

Indiana medical malpractice law can be complex.