Doctors, nurses clash over plan to expand role of nurse practitioners

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More than half of all U.S. states are mulling the possibility of expanding the professional role of nurse practitioners as a primary care physician shortage looms, according to recent news reports.

As many as 28 states are considering increasing the authority given to nurse practitioners, The Associated Press reported. The recently implemented healthcare reform law will add 32 million insured Americans to an already short-handed healthcare system. Many states believe that by expanding nurse practitioner roles to allow nurses to practice without a physician's oversight, or to prescribe medication, they can save money and still provide care services.

The Medicare program reimburses nurse practitioners at 85% of what physicians are paid, the AP reported. Many nurses, especially in long-term care, have said that allowing nurses to prescribe medications would eliminate delays in nursing home residents receiving needed pain medication. Physicians are generally opposed to the plan, and the American Medical Association has dispatched a number of doctors to state legislatures across the country to argue against the bigger role for nurses.
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