Nebraska latest state to expand nurse practitioners' role

Nebraska has become the latest state to expand the practice scope of nurse practitioners (NPs), a move hailed by a leading industry group and backed by other states' push to do the same.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts signed legislation Thursday that allows NPs to practice without a physician present, a measure that previously passed in the state legislature only to be vetoed by former Gov. Dave Heineman, also a Republican, KNOP News reported. The move makes Nebraska one of 20 states that allow NPs full practice authority, according to Forbes

"After a year's delay, Nebraskans will now benefit from a 21st century healthcare delivery model that has been shown to improve access, reduce wait times and control costs, particularly in rural and underserved communities," American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) President Ken Miller, Ph.D., R.N., said in an announcement following the law's passage. "We urge lawmakers in states considering similar legislation to follow Nebraska's example and move into closer alignment with national recommendations that prioritize the healthcare needs of patients."

Nurse practitioners in Texas hope their lawmakers to do just that, according to Time Warner Cable News. NPs gathered in the state capitol last week to announce support for bills in the Texas House and Senate that would expand their scope of practice.

"Without this legislation, currently, I cannot schedule an appointment to diagnose or to even treat a patient at all," Rachelle Campbell, a nurse practitioner, told the news outlet.

In California, lawmakers have had to show the same persistence as those in Nebraska, as state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) recently introduced his second attempt to expand NPs' authority, local radio station KPCC reported. His first bill, introduced in 2013, died amid opposition from the California Medical Association and then from AANP in reaction to changes in the bill Hernandez made to appease the physicians' group.

The expansion of NPs' scope of practice is intended to help the state's providers meet growing demand for primary care, which is fueled by the 2.5 million newly insured Californians due to the Affordable Care Act, according to KPCC.

Other states have expanded the role of advanced-practice registered nurses (APRNs) in the effort to expand healthcare access and reduce costs, FierceHealthcare has reported. In December, Minnesota gave APRNs the authority to diagnose and refer patients, order tests and write prescriptions, while Michigan and West Virginia consider similar measures. NPs, meanwhile, gained prescription-writing powers in Kentucky this past July, according to FierceHealthcare.

To learn more:
- read the KNOP report
- here's the Forbes article
- check out the AANP statement
- here's the Time Warner Cable News article
- read the KPCC report