Finalized Rule Gives Military VA Nurse Practitioners Practice Independence For Shorter VA Wait Times

One of the main driving forces behind the decision from the VA is the long wait times in rural and underserved areas. While some VA facilities have been able to solve the wait time issue by hiring more physicians, this hasn't been successful in all facilities. Bureaucracy has stalled the hiring of physicians and some veterans have been forced to wait days, weeks and in extreme cases, months for treatment and basic care services.

Finalized Rule Gives Military VA Nurse Practitioners Practice Independence For Shorter VA Wait Times written for USArmy.com


Certified nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists have been granted full practice authority by the Department of Veteran Affairs. While this was a highly debated issue, the nurses and veterans believe it’s a win for them, while some physicians don’t agree.

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The new rule, which is set to go into effect on January 13, 2017, will allow nurse practitioners to treat patients independent of physician supervision. The American Medical Association responded with a press release denouncing the new rule and stating their disappointment. Finalized Rule Gives Military VA Nurse Practitioners Practice Independence
The District of Columbia and 21 states already provide nurse practitioners with full practice authority. However, this new rule marks the very first time the Department of Veteran Affairs has established this type of authority nationwide.

Finally! Wait Times Should Get Shorter!

One of the main driving forces behind the decision from the VA is the long wait times in rural and underserved areas. While some VA facilities have been able to solve the wait time issue by hiring more physicians, this hasn’t been successful in all facilities. Bureaucracy has stalled the hiring of physicians and some veterans have been forced to wait days, weeks and in extreme cases, months for treatment and basic care services.

The new rule will give authority to more than 5,000 VA nurse practitioners. They will be able to treat veterans without supervision, which will quickly increase the number of primary-care options at each facility. Wait times should become much shorter and the VA may be on the way to repairing the reputation they’ve earned for mismanagement.

The VA is the largest employer of nurses with about 100,000 on staff. While only a small percentage will be given full practice authority, it’s expected to make a big difference.

Advanced Role of VA Nurses

Over the past three decades, nurses have taken on a more advanced role in many medical facilities across the nation. A number of doctor’s offices, hospitals and retail clinics provide care through nurse practitioners independent of physician supervision. The VA will implement a similar strategy to better use manpower at current facilities.

Often, nurse practitioners have to be supervised when it’s simply not necessary. While the doctor could be treating a second patient, instead, the doctor has to supervise a nurse practitioner even though the NP may have performed the specific treatment or diagnostic test multiple times in the past.

Commenting on the Decision

When the original rule was released in May 2016, it was met by more than 200,000 comments. Some were in support, but about 104,000 were not supporting the rule.
The finalized rule will be open for public comment through January 13, 2017. It’s expected to receive opposition, but will take effect and allow nurse practitioners to better treat veterans in need of high quality health care.

The new rule allows many VA nurse practitioners full practice authority, but it will not cover certified registered nurse anesthetists. This is due to the fact that the VA isn’t facing a shortage of anesthesiologists. However, this could change in the future.

Sources

• Nurse Practitioners Win Direct Access To VA Patients
• Nurse Practitioners to Treat Vets Without Doctor Supervision
• VA finalizes rule that expands scope of nurse practice

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