Granting more authority to nurse practitioners is associated with reduced hospitalization of skilled nursing facility residents, according to recently published findings.

States that allow NPs to practice to the fullest extent of their training without a supervising physician have lower hospitalization rates across a range of groups in addition to SNF residents. These groups include inpatient rehabilitation patients and dual-eligible Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing investigators determined.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners tracks state laws that allow NPs full, reduced or restricted scope of practice. There were 17 states allowing full practice as of January 2013. The Sinclair investigators linked the AANP information with hospitalization data from various sources, including a 2013 government report that ranked states according to their nursing home hospitalization rates.

Though a linkage exists, their findings do not prove that allowing full scope of practice causes SNF hospitalization rates to improve, study authors pointed out. However, previous research also has shown that full scope of practice is associated with fewer hospitalizations, lower healthcare costs and better outcomes, they noted. Their findings contradict the American Medical Association and other physician groups, which have said care quality is likely to decline when a nurse practitioner, rather than a doctor, takes a lead role.

The results of this study should encourage nursing groups and other stakeholders to press for full scope of practice laws, the researchers concluded. They recommended that NPs form coalitions with nursing home associations and other groups to advocate for these policies.

Full findings appear in Nursing Outlook