The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is pushing to reform state laws so nurses with master’s degrees can work independently.
According to The Washington Post, AANP wants to revise regulations in 34 states. The reform would allow qualified nurse practitioners (NP) to “interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and administer treatments” without the oversight of a doctor. So far, NPs in 11 states can practice independently, and 6,000 have opened their own independent practice. These reforms, proponents contend, would be a low-cost solution that could energize a fatigued industry.
But opponents, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, raise concerns about the capability of unsupervised NPs. According to a blog post on AARP, nurse practitioners receive 5,350 hours of education and training, while family physicians have 21,700 hours—nearly four times more. This deficit, critics say, will make NPs less capable of properly diagnosing patients with complicated symptoms.
But advocates say allowing NPs to run independent practices would help medical professionals of all levels meet the demands of a changing healthcare industry. Under Obamacare, 27 million Americans are expected to gain access to health insurance this year. With the added demand for healthcare services, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of 45,000 doctors by 2020.
Qualified NP’s, reformists urge, could help meet this influx in demand at a low cost while simultaneously freeing up doctors to handle more complex cases. Patients with serious conditions could go directly to doctors, while patients with less serious conditions could come to smaller practices run by qualified nurses.
“We have a ready-made, no-added-cost workforce in place that could be providing care at a much higher level,” Taynin Kopanos, vice president of state government affairs for AANP told The Post. “The question for states is, are you going to fully deploy this resource or not?”