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Mississippi nurse practitioners supporting bill that would allow them full practice authority

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 12:11 PM CST
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published February 5, 2021 at 11:07 PM CST - Updated February 6 at 2:26 PM on www.wlbt.com)

JACKSON, Miss. (Great Health Divide) - Nurse practitioners are seeking more independence in Mississippi. There’s a history at the State Capitol of nurse practitioners seeking more independence.

In recent years, the state widened the radius up to 75 miles from their collaborating physician. Now, they’re asking to do away with that agreement altogether - if they have enough experience.

House Bill 1303 would allow nurse practitioners with 3,600 hours of “transition to practice” experience to no longer be required to have a contract with a collaborating physician.

“The 7,000 nurse practitioners in the state of Mississippi are not asking you to let them do anything tomorrow that they’re not already doing today,” said bill author and nurse practitioner Rep. Donnie Scoggin. “Ask that you simply remove the one contract, collaboration between nurse practitioners and physicians should not, will not and cannot be removed. There will always be collaboration.”

But the Mississippi State Medical Association argues the current structure is necessary.

“I would point people to the liability,” said MSMA Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Jennifer Bryan. “Physicians assume a liability. Physicians assume a liability when they allow someone who has not gone to medical school to practice under their license. And so there is a fee for some folks that is incorporated into their business model for the time spent in reviewing charts and ensuring quality measures.”

Dr. Jennifer Bryan added this point.

“Speaking up and saying that medical school matters is OK because it does,” Bryan explained. “Most doctors gave up a decade plus of their lives training to be the experts. And training to know what’s abnormal when it looks normal is important.”

Empower Mississippi is supporting the bill and believes it’s the right step to making expanded health care access a reality.

“This actually won’t change anything for the patient,” said Empower Mississippi President Russ Latino. “The only question really is... do nurse practitioners have to pay upwards of $1,800 a month to get a very small percentage of their charts looked at by a doctor well after they’ve treated patients?

“I think it’s silly to look at this situation as physicians versus nurses in a state that has the worst access to care in the country, where people are literally dying because they can’t get regular medical care. So, what I would say is we need strong doctors and we need strong nurse practitioners working across the healthcare ecosystem.”

The American Medical Association’s letter to the Lt. Governor Friday takes a different perspective, stating that doing away with the physician led teams would threaten the health and safety of Mississippi patients.

There was no floor debate in the House Wednesday. We will watch to see if any changes are made before it’s presented to the full Senate.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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