CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The bill to provide advanced practice nurse practitioners with “full practice authority” to better serve more rural regions of the state will go into effect on July 1, 2016 if Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs it into law.
The House and Senate each voted on the bill again Saturday following additional minor amendments.
“We’re going to be able to increase care in West Virginia to people that now have insurance, but didn’t have anybody to go see,” Del. Amy Summers (R-Taylor, 49) said. “We’re going to increase the number of providers available for people to see. It’s an awesome opportunity for West Virginia.”
The final version of the bill did not include prescriptive authority for Schedule II narcotics, which provided pause to some critics like the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association.
Del. Summers said that was part of a compromise, which provided the additional authority to APRNs by reducing collaborative agreements between physicians and APRNs to only three years.
“Once a physician would move or something would happen, then you couldn’t practice anymore if you didn’t find another physician,” she said. “Some people couldn’t practice anymore. Some patients would lose who they are seeing. Now we’ve got it so after three years you’ll be able to practice autonomously and not need that agreement anymore.”
In a particularly rural state like West Virginia, this can lead to some fairly dire situations for patients seeking reliable health care.
“In Preston County, in fact, they had two nurse practitioners that were working, had their own practices, and had like 1000 patients each,” she said. “Something happened to their physicians. They couldn’t find a collaborator. They had to close down. Those people had no one to see.”
Del. Summers, who is also a nurse, said this was a great culmination of 8-10 years of hard work for nurses in the Mountain State.
“Very big for them,” she said. “I mean, some of them had tears in their eyes when it passed the Senate because they knew that was our biggest hurdle with two physicians over there. Physicians are typically against that–the bill. But both of them came on board, and supported it initially.”
If signed into law, this will make West Virginia the 22nd state with this level of authority for APRNs.