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Pennsylvania nurse practitioner to lead national organization

Joyce M. Knestrick - (Photo / Submitted)

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners started under an apple tree in Pennsylvania in 1985.

A group gathered there to discuss the growing need for nurse practitioners to have a unified voice, and so they formed the organization to become the voice of the nurse practitioner.

Today, that group is now joined by the American College of Nurse Practitioners, and combined they are known as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Last week it was announced that a new voice will soon lead the organization, and that voice comes from South Franklin Township in western Pennsylvania.

Joyce M. Knestrick is to start as president-elect of the organization this summer, and will then take the lead as president for a two-year term, starting in June 2017.

Knestrick joins the national organization at a time when current nurse practitioner practice laws in the state are being pushed toward reform.

“I think any time that you’re noticed on the national level, that can help push things on the state level,” Knestrick said, noting that having someone from Pennsylvania could help move the state’s issues forward.

For a nurse practitioner to practice in Pennsylvania, they must have collaborative agreements with two physicians, which are basically contracts that allow the nurse to practice alone.

Nurse practitioners receive master’s degrees or doctorates and are nationally certified in their specialties. They can order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests and diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries. They prescribe medications and ultimately manage a patient’s care.

Nurse practitioners are paying as much as $350 a month to establish a contract with a physician that they may never need to consult with, State Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) previously told the Business Journal.

Whether a nurse practitioners should be able to practice alone without physician guidance is an ongoing debate between the two health care specialties.

Sen. Vance, who is not running for reelection, sponsored legislation to reform Pennsylvania law so that the state becomes a full practice authority state, meaning that nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania can practice independently instead of collaborating with physicians.

A similar effort exists in the House of Representatives, and it is sponsored by State Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedord).

“I think this is a really good time for Pennsylvania to move forward on these bills,” Knestrick said.

She voiced her concerns about Pennsylvania’s current policies, noting that Pennsylvania’s bordering states have more flexible practice agreements for nurse practitioners.

“It’s something we need to be concerned about,” Knestrick said. “We need to maintain the providers that we have here in the state.”

In addition to practicing at The River Practice in Rices Landing, Greene County, Pa., Knestrick also practices at Wheeling Health Right in Wheeling, W.V., just over the border.

In West Virginia, nurse practitioners no longer need a collaborative agreement, and the state is on its way to becoming a full practice authority state.

Knestrick will continue practicing once she becomes president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, but she will not continue her current teaching position at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies in Washington D.C.

“I think it’s important to keep your hands in and to really get a sense of what patients need and what your fellow nurse practitioners are experiencing in the field,” Knestrick said.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is the largest professional membership organization for nurse practitioners, and it provides legislative leadership at local, state and national levels. It focuses on advancing health policy, improving practice, education and research, and establishing standards for nurse practitioners and their patients, according to a news release.

It represents more than 205,000 nurse practitioners, which includes an estimated 67,500 individual members and 200 organizations.

Lenay Ruhl

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