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AUSTIN, TEXAS — The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP), representing America’s 290,000 nurse practitioners (NPs), is calling on the nation’s governors to take urgent action now to waive regulatory barriers in their states that prevent NPs from combating the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), treating patients with underlying health conditions and meeting vital primary care needs.
“It’s more urgent than ever that governors lift these barriers. NPs are working tirelessly — and often without the benefit of personal protective equipment [PPE] due to well-documented shortages — to treat patients infected with COVID-19 and meet the ongoing health care needs of patients nationwide. With the worst of the crisis yet to unfold and the health care toll these PPE shortages are already exacting on front-line health care providers, it’s clear states must remove regulatory roadblocks that sideline qualified NPs from providing care and also hinder NPs from providing telehealth across state lines,” said AANP President Dr. Sophia Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP, FNAP, FAANP. “At this critical time, we urge states to act decisively to eliminate these needless barriers to practice and enable NPs — active, inactive or retired in good standing — to combat this crisis head on.”
In 22 states, the District of Columbia, two U.S. territories, the Veterans Health Administration and the Indian Health Service, NPs are authorized to provide direct patient care. In the remaining jurisdictions, outdated regulations make it illegal for NPs to provide care unless they maintain a collaborative or supervisory contract with a physician. This requirement needlessly restricts the number of NPs who could otherwise evaluate, diagnose and treat patients, especially in times of crisis. Further, it creates unnecessary geographic access challenges and delays in care.
NPs evaluate patients; make diagnoses; order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests; and initiate and manage treatments — including prescribing medications and non-pharmacologic treatments. Additionally, NPs coordinate care and provide patient counseling and education to patients, families and communities.
In 2012, the National Governors Association recommended that states consider easing these restrictions as a way to improve access to care. Waiving these requirements is a safe and reliable way to remove a significant roadblock toward ensuring states have the necessary health care workforce capacity our nation needs at this critical moment.
States should also expand emergency health care workforce declarations authorizing out-of-state health care licensees to include clinicians with retired or inactive status to resume work, provided their inactive or expired license was in good standing. Addressing our nation’s needs will require all available hands on deck. Given the nationwide scale of COVID-19 cases, states will not be able to rely on neighboring states to send health care providers to meet the demand. Authorizing recent licensees to return to the workforce offers a way to bolster our reserves and utilize the qualified clinicians already in our communities. The state of Colorado has already taken this important step. We urge all governors to adopt similar measures.
NPs are practicing in every setting and geographic area impacted by COVID-19. Removing barriers to care across the health care system will ensure that they can bring their knowledge and skill to treat patients and help the nation fight back during this crisis.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is the largest professional membership organization for nurse practitioners (NPs) of all specialties. It represents the interests of the more than 290,000 licensed NPs in the U.S. AANP provides legislative leadership at the local, state and national levels, advancing health policy; promoting excellence in practice, education and research; and establishing standards that best serve NPs’ patients and other health care consumers. As The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®, AANP represents the interests of NPs as providers of high-quality, cost-effective, comprehensive, patient-centered health care. To locate a nurse practitioner in your community, go to npfinder.com. For more information about NPs, visit aanp.org.