AAFP Objects to Plan to Expand VA Nurses' Scope of Practice

VA plan would remove provision that nurses need to be supervised by physicians


FRIDAY, July 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is opposed to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plan to unilaterally expand the scope of practice for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in an effort to reduce the backlog of military veterans waiting for medical care, according to a report published by the AAFP.

In May, the VA announced in a proposed rule that it would grant APRNs independent practice authority; the rule would remove provisions that nurses need to be supervised by physicians in patient-centered care teams.

The AAFP is opposed to this action, which it says would essentially create a national nursing license that overrides states' authority to regulate the nursing profession. APRNs must collaborate with or be supervised by physicians in 29 states, while in 21 states and the District of Columbia, APRNs currently have independent practice authority. States that have rejected the VA proposal have cited concerns for patient safety. Furthermore, physicians and APRNs who practice both within and outside the VA would have to follow separate rules for each setting, resulting in considerable confusion.

"The AAFP recognizes that nurses are an integral and valuable part of a physician-led team," AAFP Board Chair Robert Wergin, M.D., wrote in a July 13 letter to the Department of Veteran Affairs. "However, we believe that independent practice authority within the VA health system is not the answer."

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