The comment period on a controversial proposal that would expand the scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses at the Veterans Affairs Department ends Monday.
Nearly 85,000 comments that have been submitted so far debate the move's benefits to patients and its ability to decrease wait times for veterans looking to receive care. More than 505,000 veterans are wait-listed for 30 days, and nearly 300,000 are waiting between 31 and 60 days for healthcare services according to VA data.
Under the rulemaking, advanced nurse practitioners could administer anesthesia, manage chronic conditions, evaluate diagnostic tests and prescribe medications without a physician's oversight.
Nursing organizations have launched a national campaign to gain support for the rule.
“Too many of our nation's heroes are needlessly waiting for care in our VA system,” Cindy Cooke, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, medical societies have aggressively fought to scrap the proposal.
“Physicians offer an unmatched service to patients and, without their skills, patients' safety would be at risk,” Dr. Robert Wergin, the board chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said in a statement.
Veterans have supported the proposal. “Guys, there is an access problem,” Ramiro Iturralde, a Vietnam War veteran, said in a comment to the VA. “Please don't let the MD lobby mess this up. I prefer seeing the APRNs; they give me better and more detailed care.”