Revised bill on NPs serves as reminder of challenges

After failing to gain enough support in a California Assembly, a revised bill that allows nurse practitioners to operate independently only in a hospital, clinic or other group setting regained some of its momentum and advanced in the assembly.

With the introduction of Senate Bill 941, as well as proposed legislation that is currently pending in several other states, it is clear that lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the vital role that nurse practitioners play. They also are realizing that expanding nurse practitioners’ scope of practice will only become increasingly important as millions of uninsured Americans come into the insurance fold in 2014 due to health reform amid a growing shortage of primary care physicians.

According to a team of researchers in a report titled “Projecting U.S. Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2015,” after incorporating insurance expansion, the United States will require nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025.

While it is clear that lawmakers are taking note of the important role that nurse practitioners play in an already strained healthcare system, it is also evident that there’s much more work to be done to overcome resistance.

In its original version, Senate Bill 941 aimed to establish independent practice for NPs, enabling them to perform all tasks and functions consistent with their education and training. It wasn’t until the bill was revised and narrowed — removing a trail to independent practice without physician oversight after more than 6,000 hours of supervised practice — that it advanced in the Assembly.

“…These changes undermine the very heart of the legislation's original objectives, creating additional, unnecessary regulatory roadblocks just as national healthcare reform is necessitating that the industry streamline care delivery models…” stated The American Association of Nurse Practitioners presidents Angela Golden and Kenneth Miller in a prepared statement.

The reality is that the spotlight remains fixed on scope of practice and how Americans can gain greater access to quality, convenient and cost-effective healthcare services. It is an issue that won’t fade away any time soon.

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