Hiring more nurse practitioners and allowing them to practice to the full extent of their education and training could help the Department of Veterans Affairs improve access to quality healthcare for veterans, said Angela Golden, RN, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, immediate past president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
The VA must take steps to improve veterans access to high-quality, timely healthcare my nurse practitioner colleagues are ready to help, Golden wrote in an opinion column published July 8 in AZ.central, the online service of the Arizona Republic. Granting the VAs nurse practitioners full-practice authority and adding more positions for nurse practitioners are steps that can be put in place immediately.
Arizona has allowed NPs to practice without physician oversight since 2001. Golden, who lives in the rural community of Munds Park, Ariz., and provides patient care in Munds Park and Flagstaff, praised a recent proposal to grant all VA NPs full practice authority, and urged the department to accept it. Some 50 years of solid research have shown that NPs have similar patient outcomes to those of physicians, Golden said, and that many patients prefer NPs for their holistic approach to healthcare and the extra amount of time they spend on education and counseling.
Many states have taken notice of this data-driven trend and have reformed regulations to provide residents with full and direct access to nurse practitioners, Golden said in the column. This is particularly important given the increased demand for health services and declining number of primary care providers, especially in medically underserved, remote communities, and the need for todays healthcare system to reduce redundancies wherever possible.
Arizona is one of 19 states and the District of Columbia to remove restrictions on NP practice. Within five years of easing restrictions, the number of NPs working in the state increased 52% with the greatest increase coming in rural counties, Golden wrote.
State regulatory changes easing restrictions on nurse practitioners have resulted in only positive outcomes for patients, she said, and no state has ever reversed a decision granting patients greater nurse practitioner access.