Harvard Women's Health Watch

Why isn’t my doctor seeing me for routine visits any more?

Ask the Doctor

Q. I've found lately that when I make a routine appointment with my doctor's office, I may be seen by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner instead of my doctor. I really don't have any complaints, but I'm wondering why they seem to be taking on things that my doctor used to handle. Is this a new trend?

A. In my practice, many patients see a nurse practitioner instead of me. The appointment might be for an initial visit to get established in the practice, for routine prenatal care, for an urgent issue such as a miscarriage, or for bothersome symptoms such as those from a persistent yeast infection. If a woman has complex medical issues, the nurse practitioner immediately consults me, and together we decide the best next steps.

Often, by seeing the nurse practitioner, women are seen earlier, and by the time they see me they've already had laboratory and imaging tests. They actually get the necessary care more quickly than if they had waited for an appointment with me in the first place. My practice is not unusual, as studies show that up to a third of ambulatory appointments are with nurse practitioners or physician assistants. A team approach, with doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners working together, can provide all of the elements for quality care—including urgent care, primary care, and complex specialty care.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »