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Physicians, Nurse Practitioners at Odds Over New Roles

It’s a time of celebration and indignation for Beth Haney, president of the California Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a bill that will remove a six-month waiting period for new NP graduates to write prescriptions.

However, earlier last week, the American Academy of Family Physicians came out with a policy paper that raised questions about the wisdom of expanding the scope of practice for nurse practitioners.

So the California legislation is good news for Haney, and the national policy paper makes her hopping mad.

“This is absolutely political,” Haney said. “This paper is alluding to an idea that somehow nurse practitioners are inferior, that patients would get lower quality care than they would seeing a physician — and that’s really just not true, and it’s not borne out by the evidence. Study after study has shown the care under NPs is exceptional.”

The statewide affiliate of AAFP, the California Academy of Family Physicians, declined to comment on the national report, and also would not comment on the governor’s signing of the new nurse practitioner law.

Haney said that SB 1524, by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), will get more nurse practitioners working more quickly in California, which she said means better access and quality for patients.

“I love my physician, they provide obviously necessary service,” Haney said, “but so do NPs.”

Haney explained that the previous restriction — which required new NP graduates to wait six months before being able to prescribe — resulted in fewer new hires and an exodus of California-trained NPs to other states.

“Once they graduate, they are fully able to write prescriptions,” Haney said. “Now a new graduate can get a job right away, because before, physicians weren’t hiring right out of school. And that was limiting patient access.”

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