South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) signed a bill that will allow nurse practitioners to practice independently after completing 1,040 hours of work under physician supervision.
South Dakota is the 22nd state to pass full practice authority legislation, which allow nurse practitioners to deliver services without physician supervision, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
- In addition to expanding access to services, the move could save the state $71,000 annually in regulatory costs, according to AANP.
Policymakers are increasingly turning to nurse practitioners to meet demand for primary care services. While fewer than one-half of states allow nurse practitioners to deliver a full range of services, more and more are trending in that direction.
The Health Resources & Services Administration predicted that demand for primary care physicians would grow by 14% over a ten year period from 2010 to 2020. According to these estimates, the healthcare system needs about 241,200 primary care providers to meet that demand. Legislation that lifts restrictions on nurse practitioners could bring that figure down to 6,400.
There are far more nurse practitioners and physician assistants graduating from training programs than there are primary care physicians. In 2016, there were a total 4,944 medical school graduates matched with primary care residencies, according to an article published by Health Affairs. Meanwhile, 17,900 nurse practitioners graduated from primary care programs in 2015.
To take advantage of these numbers, states are picking up full practice authority legislation at a faster rate than they have in the past, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported. Additionally, many other states are rolling back regulations even if they are not lifting restrictions completely, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Five states are currently considering full practice authority legislation, according to AANP. The Veterans Affairs Department has also proposed a rule to grant full practice authority to nurses.
Progress is being made even if it has not been swift. Restrictions on nurse practitioners are clearly being targeted by lawmakers and regulators to increase access to primary care services.