The campaign to give more primary-care duties to nurse practitioners faces headwinds across the country. Physician groups continue to resist sweeping measures that would expand the allowed scope of practice for licensed nurses with advanced medical training.
Last year, Virginia passed a significantly scaled back measure that still requires physicians to supervise nurse practitioners, who usually have two years of post-graduate education. A 2010 version of the bill, which drew the ire of the Medical Society of Virginia, would have eliminated mandatory physician supervision for nurse practitioners.
“It's a matter of education for our physician colleagues over the long haul,” said Mark Coles, government relations chair for the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners. “What we have now are incremental changes.”
The stakes are huge for a broad cross-section of healthcare providers looking to expand the role of these highly trained professionals in the delivery of primary and supportive care.
They include the burgeoning number of retail clinics popping up across the country, hospital groups seeking to maximize the use of licensed professionals on staff and the nascent accountable care organizations, which will require trained professionals to coordinate care for individual patients across multiple settings. With a looming shortage of primary-care physicians, those tasks could easily be performed by nurse practitioners.