Nurse Practitioners Want to Help Patients, but Stifling Rules Stand in the Way
The fight to serve Americans freely, offering low income patients the option of having access to affordable care, has been an important battle for nurses in certain states.
According to Watchdog.org, nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania are beginning to question the straining and oftentimes useless requirements they must meet in order to help their patients.
In many states, nurses with advanced degrees and special certifications are allowed to perform several functions primarily performed by physicians. While giving these nurse practitioners the freedom to help patients without access to expensive health insurance is important, many states limit their effectiveness by forcing nurses to seek the approval from doctors before being able to help patients in need.
To the thousands of patients who benefit from having access to nurse practitioners, the process may seem confusing. But they are not alone, healthcare providers also share their frustration.
To nurse Jerry Driscoll, a nurse practitioner running Primary Homecare, doctors “are signing paperwork on patients they’ve never seen,” making their job extremely difficult. After all, nurses like Driscoll “can order their insulin, but not their shoes” he said.
In an interview with Watchdog.org, Driscoll explained that issuing prescriptions or even ordering medical devices such a simple walker or orthopedic shoes is impossible for nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania, forcing organizations such as Primary Homecare to spend thousands of dollars yearly to maintain collaborative agreements with local physicians.
If Primary Homecare didn’t have to spend $25,000 a year due to the state’s laws, Driscoll explained, he would be able to give his patients much better care. Some of the pieces of equipment Driscoll’s company would be able to afford if laws were different include mobile imaging equipment and other technologies used for blood tests. On top of that, not having to spend so much on agreements with physicians could also lower the cost of care to patients, making access to direct healthcare much more affordable.
Last year, lawmakers in the state sought to put an end to this problem by introducing legislation that would have ended the mandatory collaborative agreements between physicians and nurse practitioners.
While the last attempt had failed in the previous session, the bills introduced in the State House and Senate last year are currently languishing in legislative committees. If at least one passes, Pennsylvania would be the 22nd state to allow “full practice” models, giving nurse practitioners the freedom to practice more broadly but still within the scope of their training.
But before nurses are able to obtain the freedom they require to better care for their patients, they must fight the crony capitalists at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, who are opposing the bills currently under review.
According to the medical association, physician oversight of nurse practitioners is essential. The idea that the arrangement between physicians and nurse practitioners is just a formality is far from the truth, said Karen Rizzo, the president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
But according to recent studies, the notion that patients get better care from nurse practitioners in contact with physicians is nothing but a myth.
Nurse practitioners, the five studies conclude, improve patient outcomes while also reducing healthcare costs by as much as 29 percent. One of the studies has also suggested that patients who have access to nurse practitioners have lower hospital admission rates.
As Pennsylvania struggles with 155 areas in which patients have little to no access to adequate health care, loosening nurse practitioner’s requirements could help to give more patients access to quality care at a lower price.
What are lawmakers waiting for?