Finalized VA Policy Expands Scope of Nurse Practitioners

December 16th 2016
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

A new policy gives advanced practice registered nurses full authority at VA facilities.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have finalized a rule granting veterans direct access to advanced practice registered nurses, according toForbes.

The rule follows harsh criticism overlong wait times in VA facilities, with more than 530,000 veterans waiting 30 days or longer to receive care.

The final regulations will take effect on January 14, 2017, but will not expand to certified registered nurse anesthetists,Modern Healthcarereported.

Recently, the VA has taken steps to cut down on wait times by hiring more providers. However, officials said the bureaucratic barriers have slowed the process.

When the new policy becomes effective, the VA believes it will make it easier for veterans to be seen by medical professionals by increasing the number of available primary care providers.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is amending its medical regulations to permit full-practice authority of 3 roles of VA advanced practice registered nurses when they are acting within the scope of their VA employment,” the VA said in a summary of the final rule, as reported inForbes. “This rule-making increases veterans’ access to VA health care professionals who are authorized to provide primary health care and other related health care services to the full extent of their education, training, and certification, without the clinical supervision of physicians.”

The change has been heavily debated at the VA and in Congress, according toModernHealthcare, and not everyone is in agreement over the policy, including the American Medical Association.

“Part of the VA’s final rule will rewind the clock to an outdated model of care delivery that is not consistent with the current direction of the health care system,” said Dr Andrew Gurman, president of the AMA, as reported byModern Healthcare.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) had opposed the VA’s proposal for expanding the scope of practice for certified registered nurse anesthetists. The ASA believes that a physician anesthesiologist should always be present in the operating room in case there is a medical emergency.

According toModern Healthcare, the ASA states that there is not a shortage of physician anesthesiologists, and that the rule would mean “lowering the standard of care for our veterans and putting their lives at risk.”

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