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This requirement restricts the number of NPs who could otherwise evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients, especially in times of crisis. In addition, it can create unnecessary geographic access challenges and delays in care, according to the organization.
To further combat the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), members of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are calling on the nation’s governors to take urgent action. The AANP is asking state leaders to waive regulatory barriers in their areas preventing nurse practitioners (NPs) from treating their patients with underlying health conditions, according to a press release.1
NPs are authorized to provide direct patient care in 22 states, the District of Columbia, 2 US territories, the Veterans Hospital Administration, and the Indian Health Service. In the remaining areas, outdated regulations make it illegal for NPs to provide care unless they maintain a collaborative or supervisory contract with a physician.1
This requirement restricts the number of NPs who could otherwise evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients, especially in times of crisis. In addition, it can create unnecessary geographic access challenges and delays in care, according to the organization.1
NPs are able to evaluate patients, make diagnoses, prescribe medications and non-pharmacologic treatments, provide patient counseling and education to patients, families, and communities, and more.1
The AANP said that states should authorize recent licensees to return to the workforce to begin utilizing the qualified clinicians in the nation’s communities. Further, states should expand emergency health care workforce declarations authorizing out-of-state health care licenses to include clinicians with retired or inactive status to resume work if their license was in good standing, according to the AANP.1
As of March 25, a letter was sent to all 50 governors by the AANP, including a guidance document that recommends states expand the capacity of their health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter and guidance detail recommendations to states on temporarily suspending the scope of practice requirements, authorizing providers to practice across state lines, expanding telehealth, and relicensing/recertifying retired health care professionals to allow them to quickly re-enter the workforce.2
The AANP has applauded the administration’s actions to continue to expand access to NP care, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s urgency to suspend the state regulatory barriers to practice that limit patient access to care.2
AANP President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP, FNAP, FAANP said that the authorized areas for NPs to provide direct patient care have been better prepared to deploy heath care workers to their front lines since their patients have full, direct access to their NPs. However, the other 28 states may be taking the hardest hit since they do not have this same access.
"We are seeing states like New York taking important steps by allowing NPs to respond to the COVID outbreaks in their communities and many more states are considering similar plans as we speak," Thomas said in an interview withContemporary Clinic. “There are 290,000 NPs nationwide and states should utilize their education, clinical training, and expertise to fortify their workforces as COVID cases are still expected to rise."
Editor's Note: This article was updated on March 31, 2020.
1. AANP Urges Governors to Eliminate Regulatory Roadblocks that Prevent Nurse Practitioner from Treating Patients Amid COVID-19 Pandemic AANP President: "It's more urgent than ever that Governors lift these barriers" [news release]. Austin, Texas; PR Newswire: March 24, 2020.https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/aanp-urges-governors-to-eliminate-regulatory-roadblocks-that-prevent-nurse-practitioner-from-treating-patients-amid-covid-19-pandemic-aanp-president-its-more-urgent-than-ever-that-governors-lift-these-barriers-301029166.html. Accessed March 26, 2020.
2. AANP Applauds Administration Call to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic by Expanding Access to NP-Provided Care [news release]. Austin, Texas; PR Newswire: March 25, 2020.https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/aanp-applauds-administration-call-to-combat-covid-19-pandemic-by-expanding-access-to-np-provided-care-301029789.html. Accessed March 26, 2020.