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Pittsburgh nurse practitioners say let them do what they're trained to do to expand health care services

Nurse practitioners say let them do what they're trained to do
Nurse practitioners say let them do what they're trained to do 02:48

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The growing shortage of health care providers could be helped with a change in state law, says one group.

As KDKA political editor Jon Delano reports, nurse practitioners say if they were allowed to do what they are trained to do, the shortage could be alleviated.

With advanced degrees and trained to diagnose and prescribe medicine, there are 18,000 nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania.

"These nurse practitioners have gone on to obtain either a master's and/or a doctorate, and then they have sat for a national licensing exam," said Amanda Laskoskie of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners.

Laskoskie, who has her doctorate in nursing practice and heads the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, said while a majority of states now allow NPs to practice on their own, Pennsylvania still requires a collaboration agreement with two physicians.

"In Pennsylvania, nurse practitioners are required to have a collaborative agreement, which means they must find two physicians who sign on to a paper agreement saying they will be available for collaboration should the nurse practitioner require that," Laskoskie said.

NPs say it's harder than ever to find two physicians. Often hundreds of miles away, the physicians are not needed, rarely consulted and cost money. Laskosike cites one NP.

"She may speak to her once or twice a year, but every month for every nurse practitioner in her practice– I believe she has four – they pay 2 to 3 percent of revenue for that month to that collaborating physician for that agreement," Laskosike said.  

State Rep. Lindsay Powell is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers with a bill to restore full practice authority to NPs.

"Under this bill, HB 1825, an advanced practice registered nurse would have three years, as well as 3,600 hours of physician collaboration. So, we are talking about highly trained, highly skilled nurses," Powell said. 

State Rep. Arvind Venkat, a physician, shares the concern of the Pennsylvania Medical Society that this bill raises safety concerns and will not expand access to care.

"The cost of care rendered by nurse practitioners may actually be higher than that of physicians because of testing and over-utilization," Venkat said. "And the last piece is that training for nurse practitioners is not standardized in the way that it is for physicians."

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