Healthcare Insider Blog

Doctors of Nursing Practice fight for independent practice authority in PA

  • Healthcare Alvernia

In a recent Alvernia blog post we discussed the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the demand for Doctors of Nursing Practice in the field. Now that the number of insured Americans has increased by approximately 11 million people, actions are being taken to ensure that there are enough health care providers to take care of the additional patients.

Some of the major actions being taken include Senate Bill 717, introduced by State Senator Pat Vance and House Bill 765, introduced by State Representative Jesse Topper. These proposed laws would grant independent practice authority to nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania.

Where current law in Pennsylvania requires that nurse practitioners work in collaboration with a supervising physician, this new proposed law would eliminate that requirement. If the law is passed, it will grant nurse practitioners the ability to perform acts of medical diagnosis and prescribe medical, therapeutic or corrective measures without the approval of a supervising physician.

This all under the condition that the nurse practitioner is “practicing within a clinical specialty or area of population focus in which the nurse is certified.”

This proposed law has gained full support from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, however has received some opposition from certain physician groups who worry that if nurse practitioners gain independence it will hinder the ability to deliver “team-based” care.

The Federal Trade Commission does not express the same fear, stating in their 2014 report that collaboration between nurse practitioners and doctors “does not always require direct physician supervision… or some particular, fixed model of team-based care.”

The report continues, “Competition among health care providers yields important consumer benefits, as it tends to reduce costs, improve quality, and promote innovation and access to care.”

So far, 21 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted laws granting full independent practice rights to nurse practitioners.

So how has that independence been working for other states?

According to a 2013 study in Health Affairs, a policy journal published by Project Hope, patients were more than twice as likely to seek primary care from nurse practitioners in states with the least restrictive nurse practitioner regulations.

The study contends that, “Relaxing state restrictions on NP practice should increase the use of NPs as primary care providers, which in turn would reduce the current national shortage of primary care providers.”

Alvernia Doctor of Nursing Practice students have the opportunity to explore public policy in health care through NUR 702: Ethics, Policy and Advocacy in the Health Care System. In this course students will explore theoretical models to evaluate existing and proposed health policies, such as the above. They will cover an overview of issues in health care policy and planning at the local, state, federal and global levels.

If you live in Pennsylvania and have an opinion on this topic, contact your state representatives and share your thoughts!

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