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Am J Bioeth. 2010 Aug;10(8):1-10. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2010.494216.

Patient willingness to be seen by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and residents in the emergency department: does the presumption of assent have an empirical basis?

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.


Physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), and medical residents constitute an increasingly significant part of the American health care workforce, yet patient assent to be seen by nonphysicians is only presumed and seldom sought. In order to assess the willingness of patients to receive medical care provided by nonphysicians, we administered provider preference surveys to a random sample of patients attending three emergency departments (EDs). Concurrently, a survey was sent to a random selection of ED residents and PAs. All respondents were to assume the role of patient when presented with hypothetical clinical scenarios and standardized provider definitions. Despite presumptions to the contrary, ED patients are generally unwilling to be seen by PAs, NPs, and residents. While seldom asked in practice, 79.5% of patients fully expect to see a physician regardless of acuity or potential for cost savings by seeing another provider. Patients are more willing to see residents than nonphysicians.

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