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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Nursing bill may lessen docs’ work

    PHOENIX – A bill enabling nurse practitioners to perform certain tasks that currently can only be administered by physicians would ease the burden on doctors and offer patients quicker health care, supporters say.

    Senate Bill 1100 would allow nurse practitioners ð- registered nurses who have completed some degree of higher education – to issue information and certificates about patients’ health status to government entities or health insurance providers.

    The statements include letters needed to be exempt from jury duty for health reasons, certificates qualifying patients for a handicapped license plate or tag, information regarding someone’s ability to drive a vehicle or information about physical and mental health in adoption and legal guardian cases.

    Nurse practitioners already perform the examinations necessary for those statements, but they can’t legally issue their findings, said Rory Hays, who lobbies in support of the measure on behalf of the Arizona Nurses Association.

    “”Nurse practitioners have proven over the years the importance that they are at the bedside,”” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale. “”It seemed to me that it is time to recognize their value.””

    The legislation could help UA students and faculty at Campus Health. Although patients currently can be examined by a nurse practitioner, they might have to wait for certain documents to be signed by a physician, said nurse practitioner Lisette LeCorgne, the urgent care coordinator at Campus Health.

    “”It’s going to grease the wheel to speed things up for the patients,”” LeCorgne said. “”It looks like this is important legislation, it makes perfect sense.””

    The seven nurse practitioners who work in general medicine, women’s health and urgent care can treat basic problems but must refer more difficult cases to a physician, LeCorgne said.

    This “”collaborative practice”” would free up physicians’ time if nurse practitioners could handle additional tasks such as those under the bill, she said.

    Unlike registered nurses, registered nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat certain basic conditions without supervision. They have both a bachelor’s and graduate nursing degree.

    One of the reasons why Allen introduced the bill is to alleviate the statewide physician shortage, she said.

    Nurse practitioners in recent years have played a more dominant role in treating patients because physicians are often in short supply, Hays said.

    More and more nurse practitioners also lead their own practice, which means their patients have to find a doctor to authorize the information, Hays said.

    “”It’s an extra, unnecessary step which causes inconvenience and expense for patients,”” she said. “”We’re simply making the adjustment to reflect the fact that many people use nurse practitioners as their primary care providers.””

    During the last several years the scope of nurse practitioners’ responsibilities has widened continually, Hays said. About two years ago they were given permission to sign death certificates.

    Allen’s measure also is supported by the Arizona Medical Association and the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers.

    The bill passed the Senate and will be heard by the House Health Committee tomorrow.

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