· In a March 4, 2014, segment entitled "American doctors and ObamaCare," which aired on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," show host Bill O'Reilly grossly mischaracterized physician assistants and nurse practitioners as having no more than a community college education. (Click here to view the segment. The relevant part starts about 2:40.)
· Likening physician assistants and nurse practitioners to “Lenny, who just came out of the community college” grossly misrepresents the education and the quality medicine PAs and NPs practice in every medical setting and specialty in the United States. That includes caring for military service members, both at home and abroad, as well as their families. The misleading information does a great disservice to the millions of viewers who trust the information and opinions Mr. O'Reilly provides.
· The majority of today’s PAs are educated through intense, graduate-level medical programs wherein they are trained to diagnose, treat and prescribe. In contrast to Mr. O'Reilly's comment, 94 percent of PAs hold bachelor’s, master’s or higher degrees.
· PA programs are accredited by the independent Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), American College of Physicians (ACP), American College of Surgeons (ACS), American Medical Association (AMA), and the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). These organizations collaboratively monitor and assess program compliance. ARC-PA is the sole accrediting agency responsible for accrediting PA programs in the United States. Accreditation standards require competency-based curricula.
· A 2010 policy monograph of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and American College of Physicians, states: "AAPA and ACP believe that physicians and PAs working together in a team-oriented practice, such as the patient-centered medical home, is a proven model for delivering high-quality, cost-effective patient care."
· PAs are often trained right alongside physicians in medical schools, academic medical centers and residencies. These programs are modeled on the medical school curriculum with a combination of classroom instruction and a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. That means PAs share diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning with physicians.
· PAs are nationally certified and licensed to practice medicine and prescribe medication in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories with the exception of Puerto Rico. PAs are authorized by the state medical boards to practice medicine, meaning they can perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, assist in surgery, perform procedures, provide patient education and counseling, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes among many other medical services.
· There are more than 95,000 PAs in the workforce today, increasing access to high-quality health care. More than 7,000 PAs graduate from 181 accredited programs each year.
· Nurse practitioners hold graduate degrees that offer the specialized knowledge and clinical competency required to practice in numerous health care settings.
· Independent analyses by third-party organizations consistently confirm that nurse practitioners offer the same quality of care as physicians.
· The National Governors Association, The Institute of Medicine, and other health and policy organizations, including the Heritage Foundation, recommend easing red-tape laden restrictions on nurse practitioners in order to improve access to quality, affordable health care.
· Nurse practitioners are more likely than physicians to work in medically underserved communities and rural areas.
· Nurse practitioners are trained to spot complex problems and know when to refer to specialists when other opinions are needed – just as any physician would do.
· Seventeen states and the District of Columbia provide patients with full and direct access to all nurse practitioner services. Most of these states have had this regulation in place for over a decade and long before the Affordable Care Act.
· Nurse practitioners provided more than 900 million patient care visits last year and have been a valuable contributor to health care delivery for nearly half a century.
· Support for this petition is important not just for members of the PA and NP professions but, more importantly, for the millions of people they treat on a daily basis. By casting these medical providers in a false light, Mr O'Reilly has likely eroded the public's confidence in them. As with physicians, it is crucial for patients to trust in their PA and NP providers and the quality of care they provide. Without that trust, patients may refuse or delay high-quality, affordable care that could spare them unnecessary disease and even death.