Oklahoma City VA Moves Closer to Full Practice Authority
Last December, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved rules to grant full practice authority to nurse practitioners working in its facilities, regardless of state regulations.
Now the Oklahoma City VA is moving closer to putting those rules into practice.
Officials said the Oklahoma City VA is on the cusp of granting full practice authority to more than three dozen advance practice registered nurses.
Kerri Craft, associate director for patient care services at the Oklahoma City VA, and Siobhan Gower, credentialing and privileging supervisor at the local VA, explained that officials at the Oklahoma City Veterans Center has been amending their clinical bylaws and setting up the privileging process for nurse practitioners to be granted full practice authority.
“We’ve got 38 APRNs in our center, and our hope is to get all of them through the privileging process in the next few months,” Craft said.
Gower said that the privileging process for nurse practitioners will work much in the same way that it currently does for physicians.
“There are standardized privileging forms for different areas of concentration, like primary care, medicine and so on,” Gower said. “That form will be approved by a professional standards board and then it’ll go to the director of the center for final approval.”
Craft and Gower also said that pay scales have been adjusted. Nurse practitioners have the opportunity to make more once they move through the privileging process.
“We really hope that moving from a scope-of-practice approach to a privileging process with be a good recruiting tool,” Kraft said. “We’re looking to hire a number of additional APRNs from across the country in the coming years.”
That’s following a recent trend of using nurse practitioners and other APRNs to increase access to health care. In addition to the move at the VA to grant full practice authority to nurse practitioners, 22 states and the District of Columbia grant full practice authority to NPs, and the list continues to grow every year.
There are nearly 6,000 advance practice registered nurses who work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, not to mention thousands more who care for veterans in other facilities.
But access to medical care, even to basic primary care services, can be limited as the U.S. faces a shortage of providers. This is especially true in rural areas and VA facilities are no exception.
Though the nation as a whole faces this shortage of primary care providers, the need is particularly acute in Oklahoma, which ranks 49th among the states in physician-to-patient ratio.
Too many residents lack access to basic care, and simply put, the state faces a crisis in health care access. Nurse practitioners can be a part of the solution.
The VA is expanding the role of nurse practitioners and actively recruiting new hires to serve veterans. The Oklahoma legislature can give the same rights and privileges to the nurse practitioners who are serving Oklahomans in communities across the state each day.
Lawmakers will have that chance in the upcoming legislative session. House Bill 1013 would grant Oklahoma nurse practitioners full practice authority. The bill was passed overwhelmingly in the House last year, but now awaits a hearing in a Senate committee.