IOM report sparks discussion over role of advanced-practice nurses

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A new report urging policies that promote more independence for advanced-practice nurses (APNs) has instigated disagreements between nursing organizations and physician groups.

The report urges state and federal governments to work together to prevent policies that keep advanced-practice nurses from practicing "to the full extent of their education and training.” Nursing groups have said that such a move would help solve issue of physician shortages and allow nurses the ability to diagnose, write prescriptions and treat patients more quickly. A total of 15 states let APNs practice independently of doctors, while most states stipulate closer nurse-doctor supervision.

While doctors argue that nurses are an important part of any medical team, many believe there is no substitute for physician education and training. 

"This is not about one profession substituting for another," retorted Donna Shalala, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to American Medical News. “This is about a collaborative effort among those who represent medicine in this country to make it better and to improve outcomes for every patient and every American family."