Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports: 

As North Carolina’s population ages, and demands for health care rise, nurses need the freedom to do more.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers made that pitch Tuesday at a news conference, renewing a years-long push for regulatory reform. The Safe, Accessible, Value Directed and Excellent Health Care Act was introduced Tuesday in both General Assembly chambers as Senate Bill 143and House Bill 185. Sponsors are Reps. Gale Adcock, D-Wake; Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth; Josh Dobson, R-McDowell; Sarah Stevens, R-Surry; and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.

Outdated laws prevent nurses with advanced degrees from applying their whole array of clinical training in North Carolina, sponsors say. Under the bill clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners would be supervised by the N.C. Board of Nursing.

Nurses now are tethered to supervising physicians, who provide scant oversight while collecting large payments. Cutting the link with physicians would slash state health care spending between $433 million and $4.3 billion yearly, based on a 2015 report by Duke University research scholar Chris Conover.

The N.C. Medical Society, which represents physicians, has come out against the bill.

“This is a battle to remove barriers to health care that have existed for more than 40 years for nurse practitioners,” Adcock said. Residents of rural areas and medically underserved urban pockets suffer most from the stifling regulations. They have the greatest health disparities and worst economic situations.

Adcock said the state has a shortage of physicians. And they tend to practice in the wealthier parts of the state. Regulations hamstring advanced practice nurses who are trying to fill voids in coverage.

Adcock knows. She’s been a family nurse practitioner for 32 years. She has a master’s degree in nursing from UNC Chapel Hill, earned national certification, and has been an adjunct faculty member at several universities. Yet N.C. regulations bar her from performing some services she could administer in 22 other states and Washington, D.C.

She said residents are getting a raw deal. Their tax dollars subsidize training for advanced practice nurses in the UNC System, yet those graduates can’t use all their skills.

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