For years, nurse practitioners around the country have been fighting for the right to prescribe or to operate practices without a collaborative agreement with a physician.
Advocates' efforts to expand nurse practitioners' duties have only intensified since the Affordable Care Act took effect and 20 million Americans, many of them living in areas with physician shortages, gained coverage. This week, nurses from around the country will gather in Washington, D.C., to strategize and rally support to allow them to practice to the full scope of their abilities and help meet that patient demand.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing is one of many professional groups pushing to gain a wider scope of practice that would allow nurse practitioners to diagnose patients, order tests, complete death certificates and initiate involuntary psychiatric commitment for unstable patients without the need for a supervisory relationship with a provider.
State and national medical societies oppose nurse practitioners gaining broader practice authority. They argue that nurses don't have the training to practice without some form of physician supervision.
Nurses, however, disagree.
“Nurses graduating from accredited schools demonstrate the competencies needed to perform as safe and effective providers,” said Paula Gubrud-Howe, co-director of the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education, a statewide coalition. “The data clearly illustrate care provided by advanced practice nurses improves patient outcomes,” she said.