Providing more nurses

The House Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee approved a measure that aims to increase the number of nurse practitioners working in Oklahoma and improve access to health care services, particularly in rural areas.

House Bill 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, would grant nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses full practice authority, allowing them to provide health care services consistent with their education and training without a collaborative agreement with a physician.

“The shortage of primary care providers in Oklahoma has reached a crisis,” Rep. Cockroft said. “I am thankful that the committee endorsed this common-sense step toward addressing a real problem and improving the health and well-being of Oklahomans.”

Nurse practitioners report that the collaborative agreements can cost them thousands of dollars each month even though little or no collaboration occurs. In addition, a physician can only sign agreements with two nurse practitioners, limiting the number who can work in the state.

According to the most recent Oklahoma Health Workforce Databook compiled by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 64 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are designated as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). More than 58 percent of Oklahomans live in a primary care HPSA. The state also ranks 49th in physician-patient ratio.

“Oklahoma fares poorly in many health rankings, and a shortage of providers is part of the problem,” Cockroft said. “Beyond the health of our residents, it’s a problem that hampers economic development efforts statewide. No one wants to locate a business where there are no health care services for their employees.”

Cockroft pointed out that nurse practitioners have full practice authority in other states and in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country.

“Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia, including our neighbors in Colorado and New Mexico, allow nurse practitioners to put their extensive education and experience to work caring for patients,” Cockroft said. “In fact, they’re doing that work in the V.A. hospital just down the street from the state Capitol. This bill is an attempt to give all Oklahomans that same access to quality health care.”