Trend Report: Nurses could gain independence from doctors

Male nurse with elderly patient
iStockPhoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

The Washington Post recently published a lengthy story on new legislation in 11 states that would allow nurses with a master’s degree or higher to interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and administer treatments without physician supervision. Three other states are pushing forward with similar legislation.

Aided by groups like the AARP, social workers and health policy experts, nursing groups have worked hard to persuade state lawmakers to make this change. If everything goes as planned, the total number of states allowing nurses to act independently would increase to 30. But first, they have to get past several physicians’ groups who aren’t quite sold on the idea.

A move like this would be life-changing for many nurses, giving them the opportunity to set up primary care practices similar to those run by doctors. “We have a ready-made, no-added-cost workforce in place that could be providing care at a much higher level if we modernize our state laws,” Taynin Kopanos, director of health policy and state issues for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, told the Post. “So the question for states is, are you going to fully deploy this resource or not?”

Dissenters worry about the possibility of a lowered standard of care. Some have pointed out the difference in education between a doctor and a nurse, and the extra training physicians receive. Others worry that the move will further divide a healthcare system that needs unity as it is. “Team care, in which each member is doing what they have been trained to do best, is really what’s going to produce greater efficiency and greater quality of care,” said Ardis Dee Hoven, presi­dent-elect of the American Medical Association.

What do you think about the potential new changes? Should nurses have more freedom? Would you want to work at a doctor-free practice? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: The Washington Post

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