ROANOKE, Va. – Nursing organizations in Virginia applauded a new law that allows many nurse practitioners in the commonwealth to practice independently of a doctor's oversight.
This week, Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill, which will apply to nurse practitioners with at least five years of full-time clinical experience.
"I think it's a milestone for nurse practitioners here in Virginia," said Cynthia Fagan, who handles government relations as an officer with the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners. "I think it's a great opportunity for increasing access to care for the citizens of the commonwealth."
The VCNP said there are almost 7,700 nurse practitioners in Virginia. Nurse practitioners must have a master's or doctoral degree as well as advanced clinical training. They have to pass a national certifying board exam and maintain board certification. Nurse practitioners can provide primary, acute and specialty health care services.
"What this means is that there will be greater increase and access to nurse practitioner care," Fagan said. "Patients certainly have a choice to see nurse practitioners if they choose."
As recently as last year, the American Medical Association raised concerns about nurse practitioners operating independently of a doctor. Fagan said patients shouldn't be worried.
"There are over 100 quality and safety studies that indicate that nurse practitioners provide equivalent care as a physician," Fagan said.