An issue that comes up not infrequently in Medical and Hospital malpractice cases is whether a medical expert can testify against a nursing expert and/or vice versa. In most jurisdictions an expert witness must be licensed in the same school of medicine as is the doctor or nurse being criticized. 

The law is saying that any school of medicine or health care that is licensed by the State is entitled to the respect of being criticized only by others holding the same license. This is based on the assumption that a particular school of medicine has its own standards which can only be known by someone who studies in that school.

This is easy to see when the situation calls for a dentist to testify whether a medical doctor complied with the standard of care for example. It is fairly straight forward to grasp that a dentist couldn’t know the standard of care of a medical doctor given that he is not one. But there are situations at times when the practice of a dentist and an oral surgeon may actually over lap. This over lap situation comes up in a number of places such as Orthopedic and Neuro Spine Surgeons or Plastic Surgery and Dermatology. The law generally holds that a member of one or the other group is competent to testify when discussing the over lap material.

This brings us to the nurse - doctor situation. It used to be that nurses were not really given much credit or protection from the law in expert testimony issues but the trend over the last 10 years has been to remedy that situation. The law now properly recognizes that nurses do have standards for care provided by them which a doctor doesn’t do nor has ever formally trained in. The law has given courts the power to look at a specific situation and decide if a doctor is qualified to opine on certain nurse procedures and vice versa. The law neither wants to unfairly have a more highly trained healthcare provider give testimony on nursing anymore than it wants to allow lesser trained nurses to give testimony on medical practice issues. 

It does seem safe to say for now that physician - nurse overlap occurs in the area of communication between the two schools. Either or both a doctor or a nurse seems equally qualified under the law to comment on what information should be communicated to the other and when. A very good discussion on the state of expert law can be found at Sullivan vs. Edwards Hospital, 806 N.E. 2d 645 (Illinois).