The American Association of Nurse Practitioners announced that it is urging new VA Secretary Robert McDonald to give full-practice authority to nurse practitioners to help improve patient access to health care within the troubled VA system.
“Improving veterans’ access to high quality medical care will be an important undertaking in the new administration. Nurse practitioners are willing and able to assist in increasing veterans’ access to the medical care they deserve,” Ken Miller, PhD, RN, CFNP, FAAN, FAANP, president of the AANP, said in a press release. “Together we can accomplish this mission. In that light, AANP calls upon Secretary McDonald to hire more nurse practitioners and move forward to modernize the VA nursing handbook granting advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, full-practice authority throughout the VA system.”
According to the AANP, other groups, including AARP, the FTC, the Institute of Medicine and the National Governors Association, have also called for the measure.
“In all 50 states, nurse practitioners are proven to improve patient access to timely, high-quality care, and that’s exactly what’s needed at the VA today,” Miller said. “We therefore strongly encourage Secretary McDonald to hire more nurse practitioners and allow them all to practice to the full extent of their education and preparation.”
Eighty percent of nurse practitioners are involved in primary care and treat acute and chronic illnesses, and also focus on prevention and the promotion of wellness, according to the press release. Additionally, the VA currently employs more than 5,000 advanced-practice registered nurses, most of whom are nurse practitioners, according to the AANP.
Miller told HemOnc Today in a written statement that the services of nurse practitioners are underutilized in many situations.
“In the VA system, nurse practitioners are subject to the state laws in which the facility is located, so if a state has a supervisory or collaborative relationship in their legislation, then nurse practitioners are not practicing to their full scope. Currently we have 19 states and the District of Columbia that have full-scope authority; in those states and the district, the VA nurses are allowed to practice to their full scope. However, in other states with more restrictive regulations (collaborative or supervisory agreements), patient care suffers due to a delay in treatment and the increased cost of physician oversight over the nurse practitioner who is qualified to assess, diagnose, treat and prescribe.”
Miller said the VA is in the process of developing a standard of practice for nurse practitioners that will apply to all states.