Bill will help Virginia’s health care system

Our health care system depends on the knowledge and clinical expertise of nurse practitioners to meet today’s patient and public health needs.

The faith that patients have in NPs is evidenced by the more than 1.02 billion visits made annually to NPs across the country. As members of the health care industry in Virginia, we strive to ensure we meet the needs of all our patients. Unfortunately, current state laws prevent us from doing our job as we were educated and trained, but HB 793, which passed the House and is making its way through the General Assembly, could change that.

By 2030, Virginia will need at least a 30 percent increase in primary care providers; that growth will only maintain the status quo, not improve access. NPs provide high-quality care, and this legislation would help ensure Virginians receive it. The bill does not propose physician substitutes, but rather allows credentialed nurse practitioners to be full partners in transforming health care in our commonwealth.

The Institute of Medicine, RAND Corporation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Department of Veteran Affairs and the Federal Trade Commission have endorsed the quality and safety of care provided by NPs. An article published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation references the fact that limits on NP practice create delays in care, raise the cost of care and can make it difficult for many patients to locate primary care and other services.

Additionally, a growing body of research suggests that in states where NPs enjoy full practice authority, the quality of care they deliver compares to the level of care provided in states that limit independent practice. Despite this research, Virginia continues to be one of only 12 states with the most restrictive practice.

As a practicing NP and an assistant professor, I have cared for a vast number of patients and educated many nurse practitioners during the past several decades. I have seen firsthand the rigorous academic experience and the high quality of care provided by nurse practitioners. I have witnessed the limitations of our commonwealth’s outdated statue regarding NP practice and its effect on access, quality and cost to our citizens.

NPs are leaving Virginia for states with full-practice authority. Rural communities with no physicians are unable to have NP coverage because NPs are legally barred from providing care without a “collaborating physician.” This is the frustrating reality for many NPs.

National NP education program accreditation requirements and competency-based standards ensure NPs are equipped to provide safe, high-quality patient care from the point of graduation. I studied hard to be qualified to care for those in need, but my education did not stop after receiving my master’s then doctorate; licensing and certification requirements include ongoing, continuing education.

I strive to stay current on the latest evidence-based practices, similar to physicians and other healthcare team colleagues. I take pride in my nursing education and experience, which has given me a humanistic focus. My training is based on a holistic, person-centered approach with health promotion and disease prevention as a cornerstone.

Everyone, please examine the research and look at the outside organizations supporting NPs. Reach out to your legislator about HB 793 to expand access to care and help fill the void in the primary care shortage.

Let’s change the fact that Virginia is one of the remaining states lagging behind with an outdated practice statute. Support HB 793, and increase access to low-cost, quality healthcare for Virginians.

Biernacki, a doctor of nursing practice and certified nurse practitioner, works in family practice in Williamsburg.

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