The Senate yesterday passed legislation sponsored by Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Joshua Miller allowing nurses with advanced degrees to practice to the fullest extent of their qualifications.
Currently, advanced practice registered nurses – who have master’s degrees as nurse practitioners, clinical nursing specialists or nurse anesthetists – are not allowed under Rhode Island law to use some of the skills they must master for those degrees unless they are supervised by a doctor. For example, if a nurse anesthetist who is caring for a post-operative patient and discovers some lab work is necessary for their care, the nurse cannot order that work unless he or she gets a signature from a doctor, even though he or she is trained to know when it is needed.
The legislation (2013-S 614A) doesn’t make any changes to the scope of advanced practice registered nurses’ training or jobs; it simply removes barriers that prevent them from putting to use the full scope of their abilities, said Sylvia Weber of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association. Fourteen other states have similar laws.
Allowing advanced practice registered nurses to use their skills is a way to increase the efficiency and availability of patient care, said Chairman Miller.
“This is about cutting bureaucracy, increasing efficiency and providing patients with the care they need in a timely manner. When a nurse is highly trained and qualified to provide a certain type of care, it makes sense for the state to let him or her do it, when making the nurse get a doctor’s signature doesn’t affect the patient except to slow things down. Letting the nurses do their jobs is a better use of time and health care resources,” said Chairman Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).
The bill will now go to the House, where House Health, Education and Welfare Committee Chairman Joseph S. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) is sponsoring companion legislation (2013-H 5656A).