Friday, March 31, 2017

Healthy Habits: Nurse Practitioners

In February, South Dakota Governor Daugaard signed a bill giving nurse practitioners (NPs) full practice authority (FPA) meaning patients now have direct access to NPs and they can provide effective and affordable care to the full scope of services they’re educated and clinically prepared to deliver.
South Dakota is now the 22nd state to enact such a law, signaling a growing nationwide trend toward NPs as the patients' choice to provide timely, quality and cost-effective health care.

I've used a virtual clinic staffed by nurse practitioners twice now for my daughter - once for pink eye, once for an infection caused by chewing on a hangnail. It's much more convenient and cheaper for routine ailments than a visit to the clinic. I'm glad it's something that's allowed in MN!

I had a chance to interview Cindy Cooke DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, to learn more.

What exactly is a nurse practitioner?
“Nurse practitioners (NPs) are the health partner of choice for millions of Americans.  In fact, NPs conduct over 870 million patient visits annually.  We diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medicines and develop treatment plans for patients.  All NPs complete a master’s or doctoral degree program, and have advanced clinical training beyond our professional preparation as registered nurses.  Our training prepares us with specialized knowledge and clinical competency to practice in primary, acute and long-term health care settings.  

You can learn more about nurse practitioners at

What does it mean to have full practice authority?
“Simply put, it means that NPs can practice to the full extent of our education and clinical training.  Full practice authority results from state practice and licensure law that provides for all NPs to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, initiate and manage treatments—including prescribing medicines—under the exclusive licensure authority of the state Board of Nursing.  This is the model recommended by the Institute of Medicine and National Council of State Boards of Nursing.”

How does this change things for families in South Dakota?
“This is a positive step forward for families – in fact – all patients in South Dakota.  Full practice authority will increase access to high-quality, affordable health care for all South  Dakotans as it does for patients in now 22 states and the District of Columbia that grant FPA to nurse practitioners.  Recent trends show that highly qualified nurse practitioners are increasingly relocating to states that grant full practice authority, so we’re confident that this development will result in both retaining and attracting highly qualified NPs to practice in South Dakota to better serve patients across the state.”

What other states allow NPs to have Full Practice Authority?
“In addition to South Dakota, 21 other states and the District of Columbia have granted full practice authority to NPs. These include: AK, AZ, CO, CT, HI, IA, ID, MD, ME, MN, MT, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, OR, RI, VT, WA, WY and DC.  States currently considering FPA legislation include Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Arkansas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.”  

You can find a full summary of state practice environments at

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