Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners and Their Expanding Role in the Nation’s Healthcare System

If advanced practice nurse practitioners had their way, they’d be allowed to practice independently everywhere.

In Texas, for example, nurse practitioners and other mid-level health care professionals, thanks to relaxed legislation, have broader practicing and drug-prescribing authority. As a result of these changes, healthcare clinics have been able to cut their operating costs and increase their work flow, thereby benefiting patients, nurse practitioners, and the bottom line.

Although many nurse practitioners recognize these changes to the legislation to be a step in the right direction, many argue that lawmakers should have granted them the authority to practice independently, thereby fulfilling the demand for primary care in the state. In fact, many nurse practitioners have begun looking to nearby states, such as New Mexico, where legislation is even more in favor of the nurse practitioner.

A nurse practitioner, who recently moved her practice from Texas to New Mexico, now runs an advanced practice nursing clinic that specializes in women’s care, stating that the laws in New Mexico have benefited her and the other nurse practitioners, who no longer need to worry about whether they will have a job tomorrow due to the absence of a physician. She said she also no longer worries about physicians, who demand up to 25 percent of the business’ profits.

The Independent Nurse Practitioner

New Mexico is one of 17 states in the nation, including the District of Columbia, which now allows advanced practice nurses to provide healthcare without physician supervision. Texas supports its laws, saying that through physician supervision nurse practitioners are never “left out on a limb.”

Even though many physician groups in Texas cite that physician supervision lowers operating costs and improves patient safety, there have been several studies that have shown that advanced practice nurses and physicians provide comparable healthcare. One of the largest studies, conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000, found that advanced practice nurses and physicians used comparable diagnostic testing and emergency care and has similar patient outcomes.