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There is a solution to help Sadler Health Center, the Carlisle community and all of Pennsylvania meet its increased need for primary care access — freeing nurse practitioners from regulatory barriers.

Last summer SB 1063 was introduced by Sen. Patricia Vance, R-31, a nurse herself and our senator here in Carlisle. The bill expands the ability of nurse practitioners in Pennsylvania to see and care for patients. The bill is supported by research and position statements from The Institute of Medicine, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Governor’s Association, AARP, and many other local, state and national health care and consumer advocacy groups.

This bill modernizes legislation, giving patients full access to the services of nurse practitioners and removes outdated regulations limiting our ability to serve the patients in our community. It does not change our scope of practice, but simply removes barriers which have no basis in evidence and which have been shown through research to be unnecessary, obstructive and to increase health care costs.

Opponents of the bill claim that the quality of care patients would receive is at risk and that patient safety will suffer if nurse practitioners do not have physician oversight.

Their argument is based solely on requirements that nurse practitioners have fewer years of education than physicians.

Patient safety and quality of care is measured in outcomes, not years of education, and nurse practitioners have consistently met the standard. More than 114 research studies have shown that nurse practitioners provide care that results in outcomes equal to and in some cases better than our physician colleagues in our areas of expertise, and that in most cases patients report higher satisfaction when seeing a nurse practitioner.

There is no evidence that the presence of a collaborative agreement improves a patient’s safety or level of care. However, we have plenty of evidence showing a collaborative agreement requirement increases costs, reduces access, and decreases patient and provider satisfaction.

Insurance companies are claiming an increase in health care costs would occur if this bill is passed. Nurse practitioners consistently spend less money on medications, diagnostic testing and have lower rates of hospital admissions for chronic illness than our physician counterparts, so costs will go down, not up if we can see more patients.

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Our education and malpractice costs are lower and we are competently prepared for practice in a shorter time frame, six to eight years instead of the 11 to 12 required to prepare a primary care physician.

Opponents warn that nurse practitioners would start opening practices all over the place and upset the balance of providers in a community; that we will stop collaborating with our physician colleagues and will put our patients at risk by trying to do things for which we are not qualified.

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None of these events has occurred in the 18 states already working to meet the shortage of health care providers in their communities by removing nurse practitioner practice barriers — and they won’t happen here in Pennsylvania.

There are 8,700 certified registered nurse practitioners across the state, with 108 currently living in Cumberland County.

These highly qualified professionals have been providing care throughout the United States for more than 40 years, and we are fully trained, highly capable and eager to help meet the demand created by the primary care workforce shortage affecting Pennsylvania today.

Remove our chains and let us deliver the high quality, cost-effective, and desperately needed care for which we are educated and trained to our communities.

Lorraine Bock is the President of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners.

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