More Autonomy for Nurses

Every year, America’s nurse force is acknowledged and celebrated for all the hard work these healthcare providers offer the country’s sick. This year, National Nurses Week was May 6-12, but with nurses gaining more responsibilities, they shouldn’t be forgotten the rest of the year.

Group of Nurses

In order to fill the care gap created by the primary care physician shortage, more practices, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations are relying on nurse practitioners (NPs), along with physician assistants, to provide care.

A study in Health Affairs revealed Americans are willing to see a NP instead of a primary care physician if it means getting help sooner. However, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has cautioned, frequently, against simply substituting a physician for a NP.

While Reid Blackwelder, MD, president of the AAFP, has said NPs should be used as a part of a physician-led team, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) disagrees with the sentiment.

Angela Golden, president of the AANP, wrote in The Wall Street Journal NPs already treat patients without physician oversight in a third of states (17 plus the District of Columbia). In fact, the majority of these states have allowed this for nearly 20 years.

New York has recently joined the ranks, allowing NPs to practice medicine without being tethered to a physician. Beginning on Jan. 1, the Nurse Practitioners Modernization Act allows NPs with more than 3,600 hours of experience to practice without a written practice agreement with a supervising physician.

Nebraska is considering a similar bill that would no longer require NPs have a written practice agreement with a supervising physician in order to practice medicine.

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