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News Opinion

Not all non-physician caregivers are charlatans

Letter writer Ted Houk resorts to specious statements to argue that patients should verify the credentials of their caregivers to make sure they are being treated by licensed physicians rather than by people who merely claim to be doctors ("Beware of charlatans claiming to be physicians," Dec. 13).

He uses as an example Shawn Nowlen, the Baltimore city schools employee who marketed himself to parents as a social worker and a counselor when in fact he was neither, and who impregnated at 15-year-old girl whose mother entrusted her to his care.

Mr. Houk seems to suggest that Nowlen's deplorable behavior was analogous to chiropractors, nurse practitioners, naturopaths, acupuncturists and physician assistants passing themselves off as doctors. But the analogy is both troubling and insulting to the sterling professionals in these fields. In most cases, there is no deliberate deception, especially of the malevolent variety Shawn Nowlen practiced.

Patients have a natural tendency to call all their caregivers "doctors." To dispel this tendency and set patients straight in the short time allowed for interaction in today's corporate medical world is not an easy task.

After a couple of sincere attempts to clarify matters, I can understand why many physician assistants and nurse practitioners simply throw up their hands over this matter. Besides, in most practices those who are not doctors wear ID badges that clearly state who they are.

On the flip side, a lot of patients actually trust their non-physician caregivers more than they do their doctors. This is because many doctors have adopted the business model of detached, diluted and hurried care. Some patients tell me that their physician assistants and nurse practitioners are the only ones who'll talk to them and actually listen.

Usha Nellore, Bel Air

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