Nurse Practitioners Can Ease Doctor Shortage in Michigan

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ANN ARBOR—Reports indicate that Michigan faces a physician shortage much larger than the national average. Yet, Michigan law prevents the medical professionals who could best mitigate this shortage from doing so, because it prohibits advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) from using the full scope of their training and education to treat patients, according to Joanne Pohl, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

"Current regulations make it more difficult to provide much needed care," Pohl said.

Pohl, former director of the U-M's Adult Nurse Practitioner Program, testified before Michigan's Senate Health Policy Committee on behalf of Senate Bill 481, which would allow nurse practitioners to practice under their own license, independently of physicians.

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe medications and practice physical and speech therapy, among other responsibilities.

Kathleen Potempa, dean of the U-M School of Nursing, believes the legislation is essential for plugging the hole left by the physician shortage, and for meeting the healthcare needs of Michigan citizens. It's also an issue for citizens in states with similar prohibitions on APRNs.

Potempa cites a 2010 Institute of Medicine report stating that laws limiting the practice of APRNs are barriers to providing the optimal health care and that finds nurse practitioners and other APRNs highly competent in providing primary care.

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