The 2016 Legislature passed legislation allowing advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) to practice independently afgter meeting certain criteria. Of the more than 2,500 registered nurses in West Virginia, as many as 800 may eventually maintain their own practice, according to their organization.
Current law requires APRNs to have a collaborative agreement with a physician to practice on a limited basis. The agreement is not required under the new law. Nurses had sought independent practice for several years from the Legislature until lawmakers passed the new law this year, which is awaiting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature for enactment.
The law gives APRNs full practice authority so they can do more of what they are trained to do, said nurse advocates. West Virginia will become the twenty-second state to join the growing trends in health care delivery in the United States.
A critical event occurred in 2010 when the Institute of Medicine released a landmark report calling for a change in the roles, responsibilities and education of providers. A summary of the report stated, “Regulatory and institutional obstacles — including limits on nurses’ scope of practice — should be removed so that the health care system can reap the full benefit of nurses’ training, skills and knowledge in patient care.”
There was concern with the first draft of the bill allowing APRNs to prescribe pain medications. That provision was deleted from the final draft for fear it would worsen the state’s already alarming prescription drug addiction problem. The nurses’s organization agreed to drop that provision, but privately pointed out that the over-prescribing of pain medication did not happen with their pen.
Nurses say health care can be provided more people at lower costs, and the new law allows APRNs opportunities to network and collaborate with other heath care providers including pharmacists.
“The new law offers opportunities for pharmacists to foster relations with nurses in their communities, especially areas where there are shortages of health care practitioners,” said Richard Stevens, Executive Director. APRNs will have prescriptive authority for up to 30-day supplies. WVPA will be publishing contents of the new law, which will be make available to its members.