California's Board of Registered Nursing approved new rules allowing nurse practitioners to treat without physician supervision. The change would allow some nurse practitioners to practice more freely once certain qualifications and requirements are met.
The vote took place on Nov.14, and it's one of the last steps needed to fully implement a 2020 law that will allow nurse practitioners to practice more freely.
Currently, the state requires nurse practitioners with advanced degrees and training to have a written agreement with a physician who oversees their work with patients.
A nurse practitioner, or an NP, is a nurse with extra schooling and has similar responsibilities to a doctor. As a nurse practitioner for Desert Oasis Healthcare, Victoria Landry spends most of her time with patients.
"Nurse practitioners are just going to be able to have more of an independent practice," said Landry. "There's a shortage of primary care physicians that's nationwide."
So she says once NPs are able to meet all of the requirements, it could help address that issue locally.
The law says NPs who do three years of clinical work could work without physician supervision in certain facilities. Only after those 3 years could NPs be allowed to have full practice authority.
"It's just going to allow nurse practitioners to provide more independent-- more care to areas that are underserved," said Landry.
NPs could eventually work in more rural areas or set up mobile clinics in places lacking access to healthcare. According to the California Healthcare Foundation, NPs are more than twice as likely to work in a community health center than physicians.
Maggie Deering helps support many of the clinical teams for Desert Oasis Healthcare as their VP of clinical integration.
"We currently partner with nurse practitioners, and we have access across the entire Coachella Valley with a big emphasis in the east end of the valley," said Deering. "This will help augment the care for our patients kind of partnering with the physician and the nurse practitioner."
Given the phased-in approach, qualified nurse practitioners will likely get full independence around January of 2026.
The California Association for Nurse Practitioners supports the new rules set to be implemented on Jan. 1, 2023. The CANP's website says, "As an organization, we exist to support the removal of restrictions on [nure pracctioner] practice so that patients can receive timely and high-quality care of all kinds." CANP says there is a growing provider shortage in California, and nurse practitioners can help close the healthcare gap.
However, the California Medical Association has expressed concerns. In a press release, the Association says, "CMA remains concerned that the nursing board has chosen to recognize work experience completed prior to passage of the regulations, as this clinical experience was not directly in preparation for independent practice."