Research from the George Washington University paints a clear picture as lawmakers consider legislation to modernize Pennsylvania’s outdated nurse practitioner law. Two new studies found that outdated nurse practitioner licensure laws do nothing to improve the quality of patient care, and that nurse practitioners deliver health care that is on par with physicians.
The first study compared nurse practitioner (NP) care quality in states where NPs have full practice authority versus sates like Pennsylvania with outdated laws.
If restrictions like Pennsylvania’s current law were beneficial to patients, researchers reasoned, NPs in states like PA would have better health care outcomes. But, “Findings from this study did not conform to this pattern. In fact, state independence had no statistically significant effect on any of the three quality indicators studied.”
Senate Bill 25 would modernize PA law by removing a mandate for NPs to secure business contracts, called collaborative agreements, with two physicians in order to practice.
The study found these contracts are not necessary to ensure that NPs collaborate with physicians. To the contrary, researchers found: “NP visits in states with practice independence had a higher odds of receiving physician referrals than those in restricted states.”
SB25 has been endorsed by AARP Pennsylvania, the Hospital and Healthsystems Association of PA, the PA Rural Health Association, and numerous other stakeholders.
The second study reiterated the quality of nurse practitioner-delivered health care in community health centers. “The researchers found that visits to nurse practitioners and physician assistants received similar quality, services and referrals as those made to physicians.”
“Findings from our study should be reassuring to patients who rely on community health centers for their care,” said Ellen Kurtzman, associate professor in the GW School of Nursing and lead author of the paper, in a press release. “We found that care is likely to be comparable regardless of whether patients are seen by a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or physician.”
The results mirror hundreds of other studies over the past decades. In fact, numerous researchers have documented improved patient health outcomes as a result of modern NP laws. The National Academy of Medicine and the Federal Trade Commission reviewed all available evidence and concluded that patients would benefit from modern NP laws.
“These studies make it clear: modernizing Pennsylvania’s nurse practitioner law would increase access to health care without giving up one iota of quality,” said Lorraine Bock, President of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners.
“Pennsylvania should stop leaving patients behind and join the 22 states that already give nurse practitioners full practice authority.”
About Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners (NPs), also called Certified Registered Nurse Practitioners (CRNPs) or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs), have graduate, advanced education, with master’s degrees or doctorates and are nationally certified in their specialty areas. Among their many services NPs order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests; diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries; prescribe medications and other treatments; and manage a patient’s care. Over 100 studies have proven that NPs provide safe, high-quality health care.
Currently, in order to practice, a nurse practitioner must secure business contracts called collaborative agreements with two physicians. Researchers – including physicians and nurse practitioners alike – have proven that this mandate offers no patient health benefits. To the contrary, research shows that the mandate restricts access to care and correlates with worse patient health outcomes.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia are already using full practice authority to expand access to care, especially for underserved rural areas and patients with Medicaid insurance.