The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates there will be a shortage of as many as 94,000 physicians in the U.S. by 2025. Most of those physicians are in rural areas and inner cities, and the greatest shortage will be among general practitioners.
“We know that we have a great deal of patients who are in underserved areas and nurse practitioners are available to serve those patients, but right now we’re constrained by some outdated paperwork that makes it difficult for us to practice,” said Lorraine Bock, president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners.
Under current Pennsylvania law, nurses with advanced degrees including nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwifes, must have a collaborative agreement with a physician to provide oversight to their practice in the form of on-demand consultations.
Senate Bill 25 removes that restriction.
“It’s just not necessary. It’s very expensive," Block said. "Some nurse practitioners are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for collaborative agreements, and the physicians are not providing direct input into their practice."
A similar bill passed the senate last year but did not come up for a vote in the house. Bill sponsor Camera Bartolotta (R- Washington County) said she is hopeful the bill will once again pass the Senate and the House will take up the measure soon.
“I personally know some folks in Greene County that live miles and miles away from a doctor,” said Bartolotta.
She said she hopes nurse practitioners would fill that void if allowed full practice authority. She said too often residents of rural areas allow conditions to go untreated until it becomes a much bigger problem.
This year’s version of the bill adds a stipulation that an advance practice registered nurse cannot be granted autonomy until they have served under a physician for at least three years or 3,600 hours, whichever comes second.
Block said it's more restrictive than any of the 22 other states that allow advanced nurses to practice without physician oversight.
A recent study out of Duke University found that giving nurse practitioner full practice authority could save tax payers $6.4 billion in medical costs over a decade.