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Legislature should act on nurse practitioner bill

Nurse Practitioner Kristin Andrs, takes the blood pressure of a co-worker at her wellness center in Petersburg, Va., in January 2018. AP file photo

Add not being able to find a doctor to the list of things you can blame on politicians and lobbyists.

Multiple proposals to allow nurse practitioners to see patients independently have stalled in the state legislature, despite broad, bipartisan support.

The Senate’s version has 32 of 50 members as co-sponsors, including state Sens. Scott Hutchinson, R-21st, and Elder Vogel, R-47th. The House’s version has more than 40 co-sponsors out of more than 200 members, including state Reps. Aaron Bernstine, R-8th, and Marci Mustello, R-11th.

A bill with support like that would seem almost certain to pass, but it hasn’t even come up for a floor vote. In fact, since Sen. Kim Ward, R-39th, became majority leader in 2021, no bill to grant nurse practitioners full practice authority has gotten a floor vote.

Ward was a consistent opponent of the idea before taking over, though a spokeswoman said Ward’s position hasn’t had an effect on the bill’s path. In the past, she said she was worried about unintended consequences.

Opposition from organizations that represent physicians is likely also partly to blame for the lack of progress.

There was a failed attempt in 2020 to start a multi-year pilot program that would have allowed nurse practitioners to work independently in areas where there is a shortage of doctors. The proposal passed the House late in the session and didn’t get a vote in the Senate.

But, as state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-46th, pointed out, as 27 states already allow nurse practitioners full practice authority, a pilot program seems unnecessary.

There are questions about whether giving nurse practitioners the ability to practice independently will solve the shortage of doctors. It’s still a plan worth trying, and we urge the legislature to take up the bills.

— JK

Nurse practitioner Dwayne Dobschuetz, left, visits patient Marvin Shimp at Shimp's home in Chicago. Associated Press file photo

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