An overwhelming 87 percent of Oklahomans age 40 and older support changes in Oklahoma law allowing full practice authority for nurse practitioners, according to survey results released today by AARP Oklahoma.
22 states and DC are addressing health care shortages by allowing full practice authority for nurse practitioners. It’s time for Oklahoma to join those ranks. Full practice authority would allow nurse practitioners to care for patients within their full scope of practice without a collaborative agreement with a physician. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have masters or doctoral level education that prepares them to provide advanced health care services, including primary and preventative care.
Oklahoma State Representative Josh Cockroft and Senator AJ Griffin have authored House Bill 1013, which would grant full practice authority to nurse practitioners. The change would eliminate the agreements nurse practitioners are currently required to enter into with physicians. According to Sen. Griffin, some nurse practitioners pay thousands of dollars a month for such contracts, even though little or no supervision takes place. HB1013 passed overwhelmingly in the House during the 2017 session, and now awaits a hearing in the Senate.
“Across the country, nurse practitioners are increasingly looked to as primary care providers. A number of nurse practitioners already own and operate their own clinics in Oklahoma, but red tape creates a financial burden that can keep them from expanding or hiring additional staff,” said Sen. Griffin. “Access to quality health care is vital for the health of rural communities, and to the health of rural Oklahomans. Full practice authority for nurse practitioners is one part of the solution. It’s a common-sense step that we can enact today to improve lives and strengthen communities across our state.”
AARP Oklahoma surveyed registered voters age 40 and older in Oklahoma and found tremendous bipartisan support for changes made to current state nurse practitioner rules. Of those polled, 84 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents and 92 percent of Democrats support changes to allow nurse practitioners with advanced training to serve as the primary or acute care provider for a patient.
“Oklahoma’s more than 524,000 family caregivers who help their older parents and spouses remain at home count on the quality health care services provided to their loved ones by nurse practitioners,” said AARP Oklahoma State President Joe Ann Vermillion. “Nurse practitioners help care for older Oklahomans in their homes and communities, keeping them out of costly nursing homes.”
Oklahoma family caregivers polled in the AARP survey strongly recognize the value of nurse practitioner care in providing medical assistance to their loved ones, decreasing the need and time it takes caregivers to get their loved ones to a health care facility. 88% of caregivers polled support giving nurse practitioners – who often visit older patients in their homes – full authority to heal as one commonsense solution to help make their big responsibilities a little bit easier.
Survey finding show that stronger access to nurse practitioner care can eases the burden of transportation to medical services, especially in rural Oklahoma (64 of 77 Oklahoma counties are designated as “Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Nurse practitioners can fill a vital role in providing care in these areas:
- While most caregivers can get their loved ones to a hospital (81 percent) or a primary care doctor (74 percent) in 30 minutes or less, for a significant minority of caregivers, these times are higher. Survey data showed it takes about two in ten caregivers more than 30 minutes to get their loved ones to a hospital or a primary care doctor.
- For caregivers who live in rural areas (counties under 20,000 population), it takes at least three in ten rural caregivers more than 30 minutes to get their loved ones to a hospital (30 percent), or to a primary care doctor (36 percent).
- Caregivers spend the most time getting their loved ones to a doctor for specialty care, taking more than four in ten (46 percent) caregivers more than 30 minutes to get their loved ones to specialty care. Nearly three in four rural caregivers (73 percent) take more than 30 minutes to get their loved ones to specialty care under current guidelines.
AARP’s survey also found that most Oklahoma voters age 40-plus are or have been family caregivers – either currently (20 percent) or in the past (40 percent) – on an unpaid basis for an adult loved one who is ill, frail, elderly, or who has a disability. Of those who have never provided care, more than half (54 percent) say it is likely they will do so in the future. Caregivers polled in the survey reported the following in their load of service in providing caregiving duties:
- Eighty-three percent of those polled believe that being cared for at home with caregiver assistance is the ideal situation when the basic tasks of life become more difficult due to aging.
- Both current and former caregivers reported they have provided care in a myriad of ways, with at least six in ten assisting with complex care like medication management (71 percent) and other medical or nursing tasks (60 percent).
- Current and former caregivers have felt stressed emotionally due to their caregiving responsibilities (67 percent) and found it difficult to get enough rest (57 percent), maintain a healthy diet (36 percent), or exercise regularly (49 percent).
“Oklahoma’s outdated current rules deny our residents and their family caregivers access to trained health care providers in their communities because nurse practitioners are restricted from providing care to the full extent of their training,” said Vermillion. “AARP is fighting to improve Oklahomans’ access to affordable health care in their communities by cutting through the red tape that prevents nurse practitioners from doing their jobs. In big cities, small towns and rural areas alike, patients should have access to health care in a variety of settings: at medical offices, community health centers, and at home.”