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City Business Journals: States grant nurse practitioners full practice authority (featuring Tryon Medical’s Olivia Garcia)

Laura Williams-Tracy filed this national report for City Business Journals on the important topic of the role that nurse practitioners play in healthcare. She featured Tryon Medical Partners’ Olivia Garcia in the article that first appeared in Buffalo Business First, May 8, 2020.

Highlights of the article are below; please read the article in its entirety here.

As a nurse practitioner in Charlotte, North Carolina, Olivia Garcia can prescribe injectable insulin to treat a patient’s diabetes, but she is not allowed to write that same patient a prescription for diabetic shoes.

Such are the limitations that NPs work under in 28 states that limit practice authority for nurse practitioners. Instead, NPs in those states must work with an overseeing physician.

But amid the Covid-19 pandemic and a shortage of primary care physicians, a number of states have taken temporary measures to suspend such practice-agreement requirements.

The National Academy of Medicine and National Council of State Boards of Nursing have recommended all states provide NPs full practice authority. But the American Medical Association, which represents 200,000 member physicians, and a grassroots group called Physicians for Patient Protection, oppose relaxing the rules for NPs.

Garcia, who works with Tryon Medical Partners in Charlotte, earned her nursing degree and certification from Vanderbilt University.

“There is a primary care shortage, and nurse practitioners are a great way to fill that gap,” Garcia said. “I’m very curious to see if it takes something like this terrible disaster for us to realize we need less restrictions.”

Peter Buerhaus, a professor at Montana State University who studies health-care employment trends, said the practice authority debate is a health-care silo that needs to come down, especially given that 80 million people in the United States are without access to primary care.

“There’s a mountain of evidence showing the care provided by nurse practitioners is completely safe and very good,” Buerhaus said. “Physicians associations over-exaggerate their worry of the economic consequences. The patient is lost in this.”