28 states considering giving nurse practitioners more authority - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

28 states considering giving nurse practitioners more authority

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -- The United States is facing a shortage of primary care physicians and many states are considering giving more authority to nurse practitioners--registered nurses with advanced degrees who provide a wide range of health care services.

In many ways, the state of Iowa is ahead of the game in terms of providing quality primary health care

"We're very fortunate in this community to have some stellar advanced practice nurses," Mercy Hospital Nursing and Patient Services's Beth Houlahan said.

That's a national shortage in primary care physicians combined with the healthcare overhaul that will give 32 million Americans access to medical insurance is forcing providers to figure out how to fill the void

That's where nurse practioners come in. The state of Iowa gives these nurses with advanced degrees more authority than most states.

"I think one of the reasons Iowa allows this is because we are a rural state and we have a lot of communities out there that do not have primary care providers," Houlahan said.

Iowa is one of just 14 states to not just allow nurse practioners to see patients and make a diagnosis, but to also prescribe a treatment without a physician's supervision.

28 states are now considering increasing the roles of these advanced practice nurses. But these efforts will not go unopposed. The American Medical Association worries patient safety could be compromised.

In an October 2009 report, the AMA questioned the training these nurses receive.

On the other side, many health professionals believe these nurses not only are qualified to take on expanded responsibilities, but will be important in addressing the increased demand for healthcare.

"We have an opportunity to collaborate, to get ahead of the ball, and to really look at the needs of this community and to have the good healthcare workers come together" Houlahan said.

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