More authority for advanced practice nurses

Illinois legislation that gives advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) greater authority to administer health services was signed into law last week. The action lifts burdensome licensing regulations for APRNs, allowing them to qualify for full practice authority under their license.

“This policy shift allows for advanced practice nurses to practice to the level they were educated without having direct oversight of physicians,” said Nancy Valentine, interim chair for the Northern Illinois University School of Nursing.

Nurses and doctors naturally collaborate with one another as part of delivering care, but what is now lifted is the previous state requirement that nurses have a “written collaborative agreement,” which was cumbersome and difficult to implement, Valentine said.

According to a statement from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office, APRNs would qualify for full practice authority after successfully completing 250 hours of continuing education or training, and at least 4,000 hours of clinical experience working with a physician or in a hospital. APRNs will now have increased abilities to treat patients, including the ability to prescribe certain controlled medications.

The legislation allows APRNs to work independently without a collaborative agreement with an individual physician or hospital practice. “This decreases the restraint of trade that existed formerly,” Valentine said.

Extending full practice authority to APRNs will increase access to health care for Illinoisans, especially those in rural and underserved areas where there is often a shortage of physicians.

“I am consistently asked to provide school and sports physicals in underserved areas. In the past I had to say ‘no’ because my collaborative agreement (with a physicians’ practice) would not allow me to practice outside the office building where I was employed,” said APRN Pamela Taylor, director of nursing graduate studies at NIU. “I am looking forward to this changing. The number of children who are kept out of school or sports due to lack of access to a provider is high. The increase in access will help this problem not only in rural areas, but in urban areas as well.”

Nurse practitioners assess and diagnose patients, and implement care, including prescribing medications. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, an estimated 1.02 billion patient visits are conducted by nurse practitioners annually, and studies have shown patient and family satisfaction with the care they receive from them is high.

In a statement, Gov. Rauner said Illinois has many outstanding nursing education programs, adding that this legislation will allow nurses to more fully utilize their educations to benefit Illinois residents.

The NIU School of Nursing offers education for APRN practice through its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which prepares registered nurses to be nurse practitioners as well as to assume leadership roles in a variety of specializations.

“NIU’s DNP program is a practice-oriented degree that focuses on educating nurse practitioners and other nursing leaders to meet the needs of diverse client populations. This new legislation allows for nurse practitioners to practice to the full extent of their educational preparation,” said Derryl Block, dean of the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences.

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