CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS/AP) - Missouri legislation in front of Gov. Jay Nixon would allow medical school graduates to start seeing patients sooner.
The bill would create a classification of "assistant physician" for graduates who have passed licensing exams but have not completed residency training. They would be allowed to provide primary care and prescribe drugs in rural or urban areas where there are shortages of doctors.
Under the current system, students begin working with patients during their residency. That comes after 8 years of university course work. Under the new law, those students could start practicing patient care two years earlier.
Some say by that point, students have enough training to start seeing patients on a regular basis.
"It's not entirely unreasonable to think that they could do limited things with proper supervision and with the proper insurance," Southeast Missouri State University biology professor Jim Champine said. "It's a serious and sober business on accrediting physicians and who should be able to write prescriptions."
Assistant physicians would be overseen by another doctor, who would have to be physically present with them for at least the first month
Nixon has not said whether he will sign the legislation.