New nursing practice law will improve access to care

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota is praising a landmark bill signed into law this week by Gov. Mark Dayton that will allow the most highly educated nurses to practice more autonomously in Minnesota.

The legislation will help alleviate the shortage of primary care providers in rural and underserved areas.

The bill, which amends the Minnesota Nurse Practice Act, gives nurses who have completed a masters- or doctoral-level program in a nursing specialty area more autonomous prescribing authority. Included are nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists. Minnesota joins 17 other states in granting this authority to its advanced practice nurses.

“The School of Nursing celebrates this moment recognizing the tremendous impact this legislation will have on health care access in Minnesota,” said Connie White Delaney, dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. “The support for this common-sense legislation was overwhelming because health care quality, access and costs are top concerns for so many.”

The amendment to the nurse practice law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2015, does not require changes in education programs for advanced practice nurses. Instead it allows graduates of these programs to practice what they have learned, practiced and are licensed to deliver to the fullest extent of their education. Currently, nurses who practice independently are required to have written agreements in place with physicians. These agreements, which can cost nurses thousands of dollars to maintain, create hurdles for highly educated nurses to serve in rural and underserved areas.   

“This is an important step forward in our continuing efforts to improve access to care across Minnesota,” said Brooks Jackson, dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and vice president for health sciences. “The University of Minnesota has been a leader in educating and training advanced practice nurses.  Allowing them to practice to the fullest extent of their education will help us deliver better care, more efficiently, to more people.” 

Other details of the bill:

  • New graduates of nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist programs must first practice under a collaborative agreement with another more experienced advanced practice nurse or physician in a clinical system for their first 2,080 hours of practice.
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists must practice under a collaborative agreement with a physician when treating patients for chronic pain.  
  • A new advisory committee to the Minnesota Board of Nursing will be created to review practice trends, prescribing data, and complaint data and advise the Board of Nursing on emerging practice and regulatory standards related to advanced practice registered nurses.  
  • The Minnesota Department of Health will compile and report on data from the past 36 months related to chronic pain procedures performed by physicians, doctors of osteopathy and certified registered nurse anesthetists. 

This week the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota will award the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree to 73 new advanced practice nurses, who will be tested and certified in their specialty areas.

“We are pleased our graduates will have another reason to stay and practice in Minnesota,” said Mary Chesney, director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. “Our students are grounded in a health care team model of care. They understand how to lead and coordinate care for patients in the context of their environments. Nursing is ready for this change.”

Chesney played a leadership role in advocating for this change in collaboration with nursing and other health organizations for the past four years.

The School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota produces more than half of the state’s advanced practice nurses and nursing faculty. The school is ranked 15th nationally among nursing schools in research grants received from the National Institutes of Health in 2013. It is the oldest continuously-operated, university-based school of nursing in the nation. The School of Nursing is one of six schools and colleges in the Academic Health Center, one of the most comprehensive facilities for health professionals in the nation, fostering interdisciplinary study, research and education.