In 2015, nurse practice laws in the state of Minnesota were changed to give advance practice nurses the autonomy to see patients without a physician oversight. The amendment to nursing regulation is being picked up by more and more states in an effort to fill the need for primary and specialized care. Thus far, 21 states and the District of Columbia have taken on this legislation, allowing nurse practitioners more autonomy.
In 21 states, this progressive legislation is old news… The new excitement about this is the Nurse-Run Clinics. These clinics have begun to gain traction with this well-earned authority. Each state has different qualifications for autonomous nurse practitioners, but nurse practitioners are definitely gaining some independence with these new developments.
A nurse practitioner community clinic opened in concomitance with Minnesota School of Nursing in downtown Minneapolis. Vetted nurse practitioners in Downtown East neighborhood no longer need written agreement from a physician to practice as a primary care provider.
The clinic treats minor conditions (fevers, flu, and cold). Additionally, it provides care for chronically ill patients with diabetes or heart failure. They have also built a connection with Emanuel Housing, transition housing for homeless people. The clinic treats clients at Emanuel Housing, and additionally leads wellness classes to aid in disease prevention.
The president of RS Eden, Dan Cain, explains, “some people have had doctors; others have relied on the emergency room. But none have had the easy access that I think will come from having the clinic right there at that location.” Having already reached out to physician clinics in the past, he is very grateful for the collaboration with the nursing clinic.
Some Aren’t Sold on Nurse Autonomy
Some in the physician community believe that nurses stepping out could “fragment” care and that can cause some worry. Physician, Thorson, from White Bear Lake has reservations. He questions whether nurses at these clinics will stay cognizant of the limits of their knowledge, as they have less training than primary care physicians. Will they be able to recognize “complex illnesses across organ systems… and coordinate care with a physician”?
However, the nurse practitioner clinic in Minneapolis is well connected with many physicians. They eliminate doubt in the knowledge of their limits with their willingness to refer serious cases to their network of physicians. Their use of connections and work in cohesive (rather than fragmented) health expands to pharmacists they have on site.
A Solution to a Growing Problem
There is a large unmet demand for primary care in the US, which only seems to keep increasing. The population is expanding, the baby boomers are aging, and more people have access to medical insurance. With all of these factors in mind, some “experts estimate a shortage of 20,000 primary care providers in the next few years.”
Granting autonomy to nurse practitioners is tapping into a wealth of professionals. Not only does the change in legislation alleviate the existing shortage, but also allows nurse practitioners to simply… do what they were trained to do.
Here is an interactive map to find what regulations are in your state.