The state Senate this week passed legislation that would give nurse practitioners more freedom to practice in Pennsylvania.
Senate Bill 25 cleared the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 39-10. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for a vote.
The bill aims to give nurse practitioners more freedom to practice by removing a requirement that they only practice in collaboration with at least two physicians.
Under existing Pennsylvania law, nurse practitioners and physicians must have business contracts called collaborative agreements. Nurse practitioners work under physicians to provide many health care services such as diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, like diabetes, and prescribing medications.
The bill would allow nurse practitioners, after 3,600 hours and three years of collaboration with a physician, to practice independently – a policy called full practice authority.
The ongoing movement to give nurse practitioners full practice authority has triggered debates on how care should be delivered.
Proponents of the change feel that giving nurse practitioners full practice authority will expand care to underserved populations, such as rural communities and those impacted by the opioid epidemic, and address provider shortages in the state.
Opponents of full practice authority argue that it threatens the current physician-nurse team and could lower quality of care.
Currently 22 states and the District of Columbia give nurse practitioners full practice authority.
In Pennsylvania, nurse practitioners employed at VA hospitals are free to practice without direction from a physician.