On June 3, Senators heard a bill to expand nurse practitioner scope of practice for NPs working in the Veterans Health Administration (see image below for locations of Veterans Health Administrations in the U.S.). The Frontlines to Lifelines Act would grant full practice authority to 4,000 NPs who work in the Veterans Health Administration, and improve veterans’ access to healthcare services. The bill would bring much needed relief to the VA system, and ultimately reduce its long wait times. This is the latest attempt by Congress and the VA to improve access to care. Earlier this year, the government allowed veterans to access healthcare outside of the VA when the nearest VA facility within 40 miles driving distance does not provide the care the veteran needs. The VA is realizing what 21 states already know. NPs provide primary care services that are equal to physicians in quality and outcomes, and they are a critical to ensuring patients have adequate access to healthcare services in the face of the physician shortage. Earlier this year, Maryland became the 21st state to grant NPs full practice authority, meaning they can practice to the full extent of their training without oversight from a physician. NPs in full practice states can treat and diagnose patients, prescribe controlled substances, act as a primary care provider, and more. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners supports the bill, calling it a “zero-cost, zero-delay, zero-risk solution—that will immediately bring improvements in care to the brave men and women who have served their country.” It will be interesting to see if lawmakers will grant full practice to NPs working in the VA system. Perhaps granting full practice authority on a federal level could add even more momentum to the NP scope of practice movement and inspire more states to change their laws.
About Ben Amirault
Ben Amirault was formerly the marketing manager at Barton Associates' Peabody, MA headquarters. He received a B.A. in English, specializing in journalism, from the University of New Hampshire.
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