Pennsylvania bill would expand role of nurse practitioners
The Pennsylvania Senate has introduced legislation that would allow nurse practitioners to practice without the supervision of a physician.
The bill, which is currently before the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, attempts to ease the shortage of healthcare providers in rural and underserved areas of Pennsylvania by easing restrictions on nurse practitioner supervision. But physicians opposed to the legislation claim nurses don't have the training to provide care on their own.
Under current Pennsylvania law, nurse practitioners work alongside physicians in practices as part of a collaborative agreement.
The proposed legislation would allow nurse practitioners to provide care independent of a physician after they complete a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a physician. The nurse can practice independently within the clinical specialty area they received their license in.
About 35% of Pennsylvania residents live in an area with inadequate access to primary care, said Sen. Camera Bartolotta, a Republican who introduced the bill.
"Many rural communities suffer from a severe lack of healthcare access, forcing many patients to travel an hour or more for care," Bartolotta said. "Expanding the practice authority of (nurse practitioners) is a logical step to help break down the barriers to quality healthcare services."
The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association supports the legislation.
But the Pennsylvania Medical Society, which represents 16,000 physicians and medical students in the state, opposes the bill and says eliminating the collaborative tie between physicians and nurses will "fragment patient care and jeopardize patient safety."
The society is urging its members to write to their state senator to vote "no" on the bill.
This is not the first time the state has considered removing the collaborative agreements between nurses and physicians. Last year, state senators proposed a bill that would remove the agreement. Although it passed the Senate, the bill never made it out of a House committee.
Twenty-two states have adopted regulations similar to the proposed bill.
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