Virginia Nurse Practitioners Seek More Autonomy
Written by Editor   
Friday, May 04, 2018 12:14 PM

Most Virginia nurse practitioners could gain the autonomy to practice without a physician’s oversight if the Virginia governor signs a bill the General Assembly passed with near-unanimous support.

The measure would allow most types of nurse practitioners with five years of full-time clinical experience to earn approval to practice without maintaining a contract with a physician who oversees them. 

The Medical Society of Virginia, the state’s largest association of physicians, has raised concerns about patient safety and quality of care. The group has lobbied the governor for a significant amendment to the version of the bill that passed. “Every pilot is trained to fly a plane. But do you really want someone who’s been trained to fly a two-person Cessna landing your 747? It’s about having the right person in the right role,” one medical student said while speaking against the bill in a subcommittee hearing.

But some nurse practitioners say doctors are more concerned about protecting their income — and their turf.  The vast majority of evidence shows that nurse practitioners provided comparable and oftentimes better care than physicians.

The Medical Society of Virginia has asked the governor, himself a doctor, to amend the bill to include a provision requiring nurse practitioners to meet their five-year requirement while collaborating with a physician in the same type of practice area.  “If that provision is included, we can drop our opposition to the bill,” a spokesperson said.

The Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners wants the bill enacted as-is.

Nurse practitioners have specialized training to write prescriptions, make diagnoses and perform other tasks that go beyond traditional nursing duties. Virginia is currently among 12 states , mainly in the South, with the most restrictive supervision requirements for nurse practitioners, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.