In December of 2013, Lorraine Bock, a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner in Pennsylvania, was forced to close the primary care practice she had been successfully operating for more than 15 years. During this time, her patient outcomes were outstanding and the loyalty of her patients was strong.
At a time when as many as 550,000 more Pennsylvanians are seeking primary health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act, why did this committed health care provider have to shut the doors of a successful business? Like other nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania, Dr. Bock, who is the president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, had to call it quits because of the burdensome mandates our state imposes on their work.
Although nurse practitioners are certified, licensed and clinically prepared to care for patients, PA law requires the endorsement of both a primary and secondary collaborator in order for NPs to be able to work. Nurse practitioners can evaluate, examine, diagnose, prescribe and treat patients, but in Pennsylvania, being recognized as primary care providers with some insurance carriers is still a barrier for patients being able to access NPs for care. “It simply doesn’t make sense. Why should I practice in Pennsylvania when eighteen other states allow me to do everything I am educated and licensed to do for my patients?” said Kara Taylor, a nurse practitioner based in Snyder County.
“When my previous collaborating physician left, I was forced to find another, or else I wouldn’t be able to practice,” said Lorraine Reiser, Ph.D., CRNP, director with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and nursing professor at Clarion University. “Allowing them to be licensed independently could help relieve the oncoming shortage of primary care physicians and increase access to care,” added Ms. Reiser, who practices at the Hilltop Community Healthcare Center in Pittsburgh’s Beltzhoover neighborhood. Legislation giving nurse practitioners full practice authority has already been introduced by Senator Pat Vance, SB 1063 and focuses on:
Meeting the Demand: 550,000 new Pennsylvania Patients The Pennsylvania Department of Health projects a quarter of Pennsylvanian’s primary care physicians will stop practicing within a few years and 55 of our 67 counties are medically underserved now. Clearly, nurse practitioners are needed to help meet this growing demand.
Providing High Quality Care — The outcomes delivered by nurse practitioners and physicians in the last twenty years proves one simple fact — quality of care provided by a nurse practitioner is as good, and in some cases better then care provided by physicians. Even the Physicians Foundation acknowledges this fact.
Giving patients a choice — If a patient wants to see a physician, that is great. And if they want to see a nurse practitioner, that’s great too. However, many patients don’t have that option because many insurers refuse to recognize the profession as PCPs, and many NPs can’t find two collaborating physicians. This means sometimes a patient has to wait weeks to see a physician and could be evaluated sooner by a NP.
Lowering Health Care Costs — It’s this simple: primary, preventive care reduces unnecessary costly care! A diabetic patient receiving high quality care that is managed by a nurse practitioner is less likely to require more serious treatments that can cost thousands of dollars.
For more information on PCNP’s “Putting Patients First” campaign, please visit www.pacnp.org.