Louisiana House lawmakers approve bill allowing nurse practitioners to practice medicine without doctors
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - House bill 495 is aimed to allow nurse practitioners to practice medicine independently of doctors, a move that 23 other states are already following.
Nurse practitioners in Louisiana who currently have their own clinics must have a collaborative practice agreement with a physician. While a physician is on staff, the majority of the time they are never in the clinic.
Kathy Baldridge is the President of the Louisiana Association of Nurse Practitioners and said, “It allows us to do what we are educated to do without a trade restricting contract that’s in place that just creates barriers to improving access to health care.”
Baldridge says health access is one of the major components for health outcomes but Louisiana ranks last in the nation for health outcomes. She says this bill would help modernize health care.
“You have to have services that are convenient to you in your community. We have some people that drive more than two hours to come to be seen at the clinic and sometimes they don’t have transportation,” said Baldridge. “Having services that are available to you in a timely manner is all part of access to care.”
If passed, the bill would do away with the collaborative agreement. It would require nurse practitioners to practice for 6,000 to 10,000 hours with a doctor and then, they could become fully independent.
District 22 State Representative Gabe Firment voted in favor of the bill. He said this bill would help provide more access to health care especially in the rural communities that need it the most.
“Take Grant Parish which I represent. We don’t have a single physician operating in the parish but we have several nurse practitioners and at least three rural health clinics and they are a tremendous asset,” said Firment.
District 30 State Representative Chuck Owen said this was one of the most argued bills during the legislative session. He voted against it, not because he believed the level of care would go down, but because he believes more education is needed.
Owen said, “My conversations with the doctors were tied to the number of times that they had been in the university and in the post-university training period to get to where they were to get to have the level of expertise that they have.”
Baldridge argued that removing the agreement doesn’t mean it expands their scope of practice. Nurse practitioners will still refer to other physicians when it isn’t in their scope.
“We have over 50 years of research that supports that nurse practitioners are educated to provide the services that we provide,” said Baldridge. “We are not physicians. Removal of this contract does not make us a physician. But it does give us the authority to take care of patients within the ability that we have gained through education.”
The bill passed in the House with a 60 to 41 vote. It will now proceed to the Senate.
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