- New York is the latest state to pass legislation granting nurse practitioners full practice authority after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the state budget into law Monday.
- With full practice authority, NPs in New York will now be able to evaluate, test, diagnose, manage treatments and prescribe medications for patients without having to sign a contract agreement with a supervising physician.
- Half the states in the country now grant full practice authority to NPs, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
In the same way lawmakers relaxed rules around telehealth at the start of the pandemic to lessen strains on the healthcare system, they also waived some regulations for practicing medical professionals.
Some states waived requirements that NPs must sign a contract agreement with a supervising physician before they can practice, like New York. It's keeping that rollback permanently, and joining a growing list of states as the healthcare industry faces massive workforce challenges likely to stretch over the next few years.
Massachusetts and Delaware are two other states that opted to make pandemic-related rollbacks for nurse practitioners permanent recently through legislation, April Kapu, president of the AANP, said.
Advocates for granting full practice authority say it allows NPs to practice at the top of their education and training without regulatory restrictions, helping broaden access to care.
Many NPs work in primary care settings, with more than 75% of actively practicing NPs providing primary care, according to AANP.
In states without full practice authority, restrictions for nurse practitioners can vary. They often must sign practice agreements and pay fees to work with a physician, and often face limits on their ability to prescribe medications, especially in certain settings, Kapu said.
States that grant NPs full practice authority see more NPs practicing in rural and underserved areas, while those without it are more closely associated with geographic healthcare disparities, higher chronic disease burden, primary care shortages, higher costs of care and lower standing on national health rankings, according to AANP.
Having more NPs on staff at a hospital can also lead to higher patient satisfaction scores and better quality outcomes, including shorter lengths of stay and lower Medicare costs per patient, a 2021 study conducted by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy research at UPenn nursing and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania found.
In order to become an NP, one must earn a bachelor's degree as a registered nurse, become licensed, go back to school and complete a graduate program and then pass a national NP board exam.
More than 355,000 licensed NPs are currently practicing across the country, according to AANP, and that figure is only expected to grow.
From 2010 to 2017 the number of nurse practitioners in the U.S. more than doubled, according to a 2020 study published in Health Affairs.
Employment for nurse practitioners, anesthetists and midwives over the next eight years is expected to grow 45% — much faster than the average for all occupations — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nurse practitioner also ranked second overall in U.S. News and World Report's 2022 list of best jobs, with rankings first based on projected hiring demand, then factoring in salary, work-life balance and other metrics.