The aging baby boomer population and the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act are just two of the reasons why Pennsylvania physician groups are concerned that a physician shortage may become a reality.
But new research shows that the use of nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania may be the solution to this impending crisis; that is, if legislation is passed that would eliminate an outdated law that says nurse practitioners in the state must practice with a physician’s oversight.
The Fight to Eliminate an Existing Law
The current law states that all mid-level providers, including nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, must enter into a collaborative agreement that includes the oversight of at least two physicians. But a new proposal, introduced by Senator Pat Lance (R-York County) is looking to allow the more than 8,400 nurse practitioners in the state to work without these collaborative agreements.
There are currently 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that allow nurse practitioners to treat patients without the supervision or approval of a physician. Mary Verdarame of the PA Coalition of Nurse Practitioners notes that this new bill would “simply remove a piece of paper.”
The Problem with Physician Groups
Not all practitioners in Pennsylvania agree with this new proposal. Physicians groups, in particular, state that amending the law would create safety issues, particularly when it comes to treating complex issues.
Bruce MacLeod of the Pennsylvania Medical Society agrees, stating that the “most experienced and best trained person should be running the teams.”
Reducing the Paperwork Load
Likewise, many nurse practitioners agree that physician collaboration is an important component of providing the best care, although the process of physician collaboration involves so much paperwork that state-level delays, which can last up to 6 months, prevent physicians from hiring nurse practitioners in a prompt manner.
Further, getting rid of the collaborative agreements would also not solve the physician shortage in PA.