DiversityNursing Blog

Let The Nurses Free

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jun 03, 2015 @ 10:47 AM

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We wholeheartedly agree with this article that Nurse Practitioners across the country should be allowed to practice without a doctor’s consent in a variety of medical areas.

What are your thoughts about this important issue? Do you strongly agree or disagree?

In March, Nebraska became the 20th state to allow nurses with the most advanced degrees to practice without a doctor’s oversight in a variety of medical fields. Maryland recently followed suit and eight more states are considering similar legislation.

What does all this mean? Nurses in Nebraska with a master’s degree or better, known as nurse practitioners, no longer have to get a signed agreement from a doctor to be able to order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and administer treatments.

These changes are long overdue.

The preponderance of empirical evidence indicates that, compared to physicians, nurse practitioners provide as good — if not better — quality of care. As I’ve written previously, patients are often more satisfied with nurse practitioner care — and sometimes even prefer it.

The Institute of Medicine is unambiguously clear about this: 

No studies suggest that APRNs [Advanced Practice Registered Nurse] are less able than physicians to deliver care that is safe, effective, and efficient or that care is better in states with more restrictive scope of practice regulations for APRNs.

In addition, see this review of the literature in Health Affairs.

In general, nurse practitioners have the skills to prescribe, treat and do most things a primary care physician can do. They generally must have completed a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner Program and have a Masters or PhD degree. In addition, there are physician assistants, registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and army medics. In most states, each of these categories has its own set of restrictions and regulations, delineating what the practitioners can and can’t do.

What should each of these professionals be allowed to do? Whatever they’ve been trained to do.

The doctors counter that someone who hasn’t trained to be a doctor might miss important symptoms or clues that a physician might catch. This observation is true but trivial. Every professional might miss something that someone who is better trained might catch. A specialist might catch something a primary care physician might miss. A specialist in one field (say, oncology) might catch something a specialist in some other field (say ENT) might miss.

Perhaps more relevant to common experience, Emergency Medical Technicians riding in ambulances are treating victims of accidents and emergencies every day. Would the care be slightly less risky if we put doctors in all those ambulances? Maybe. Is anyone seriously suggesting that we do that? Of course not.

Think of health care as a large market in which everyone has to make decisions about whether the patient-provider nexus is the right fit. It’s not just the providers who have to decide whether the problem lies within their area of competence. Patients must make those decisions too. In Britain (under socialized medicine), patients make such decisions all the time. For routine problems, most Britons see a National Health Service physician. But “if it’s serious, go private” is a common bit of advice in that country.

How do professionals handle these decisions? From the most part quite well. Walk-in clinics (where nurses deliver care following computerized protocols) have been around for at least a decade. Studies show that the nurses follow best practices as well or better than traditional primary care physicians. And I am not aware of any serious, reported cases of nurses failing to distinguish between cases they are competent to handle and those they are not.

But even if a nurse did make a serious mistake, doctors make mistakes too. There is no such thing as a risk free world. We encounter tradeoffs between cost and risk every day. There is no reason for politicians (beholden to special interests) to make these decision for us.

In Texas, which has some of the most stringent regulations in the country, however, a nurse practitioner can’t do much of anything without being supervised by a doctor who must:

•Not oversee more than four nurses at one time.

•Not oversee nurses located outside of a 75 mile radius.

•Conduct a random review of 10 percent of the nurses’ patient charts every 10 days.

•Be on the premises 20 percent of the time.

These restrictions make it virtually impossible for Texas’ 8,600 nurse practitioners to practice outside the office of a primary care physician. The Texas requirement that a doctor supervising nurse practitioners be physically present and spend at least 20 percent of her time overseeing them creates an incentive for the physician to require nurses to be employees, rather than self-employed professionals. When practitioners are employed by a doctor, the physician meets state supervision requirements simply by showing up. This allows the doctor to see her own patients while generating additional revenue from patients seen by the practitioners.

These regulations have the greatest impact on the poor, especially the rural poor. The farther a nurse is located from a doctor’s office, the less likely the physician will be willing to make the drive to supervise the nurse. This means that people living in poverty-stricken Texas counties must drive long distances, miss work and take their kids out of school in order to get simple prescriptions and uncomplicated diagnoses. This problem might be alleviated if nurse practitioners were allowed to practice independently in rural areas. But, under Texas law, these practices must be located within 75 miles of a supervising physician. A physician with four nurses located in rural areas could drive hundreds of miles a week to review the nurses’ patient charts. The result is that doctors in Texas don’t receive a return on investment sufficient to induce them to supervise nurse practitioners.

If all this sounds like the reinvention of the Medieval Guild system, that’s exactly what it is. In Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman argued that these labor market restrictions are no more justified today than they were several centuries ago. The proper role of government, said Friedman, is to certify the skills of various practitioners; then let consumers decide what services to buy from them.

Contributer: John C. Goodman

www.forbes.com


Topics: nurse practitioners, health, nurses, doctors, medical care

LGBT People In Rural Areas Struggle To Find Good Medical Care

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Mar 06, 2015 @ 11:31 AM

Jonathan Winston Jones

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When Ryan Sallans, an activist in the Nebraska transgender community, first went to the doctor in 2005 to talk about what he medically needed to do for his gender transition, his doctor wanted to offer medical help. That was the good news.

The disconcerting news was the doctor had to Google the issue first to figure out the best medical advice.

"My provider just did a Web search to figure out what dose of hormones I should be on, and put me on the highest dose," Sallans said. That could have been a dangerous choice. "Starting too high of a dose too quickly can cause a lot of health problems, particularly to cardiovascular health."

Fortunately, Sallans didn't have any health complications.

But his experience left him with a mission. He volunteers to speak with medical institutions, as well as with businesses and colleges, to urge them to be more LGBT inclusive. 

While a growing number of medical schools are teaching future doctors how to address health concerns that can be specific to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, studies show current doctors only get about five hours of training, if they get any at all.

For members of the LGBT community who live in more rural and conservative areas like Nebraska, the struggle to get good, or at least up-to-date, medical care may be even more difficult. 

In general, legal protections and institutional supports for LGBT Nebraskans are already thin, spotty or nonexistent.

On March 2, the United States District Court struck down Nebraska's ban on marriage for same-sex couples, but that ruling is on appeal. 

 

Without the legal institution of marriage, LGBT Nebraskans typically lack family health benefits, unless their employers provide them to same-sex partners.

A 2014 study from the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles found that states without LGBT legal protections in place see lower rates of health insurance coverage for LGBT residents than states with protections.

That plays out in Nebraska. 

A 2014 study from researchers at the University of Nebraska Omaha found that LGBT residents in the rural parts of the state have lower rates of health insurance coverage than their counterparts in urban areas. 

Even when LGBT Nebraskans have health insurance, they struggle to find providers versed in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender heath care needs. 

Research shows that LGBT individuals often experience health issues linked to being regular targets of discrimination or social stigma. Discrimination has been linked to higher rates of substance abuse, suicide and stress-related illnesses, which can include heart problems, obesity, eating disorders and cancer. 

If the available doctors are not familiar with the increased rates of these issues, they may provide inadequate care.

Patients who find their doctors do not understand their issues may also delay treatment, often with bad health outcomes, said Jay Irwin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and a researcher in LGBT health. 

Sometimes patients are turned away by providers who don't want to treat LGBT patients, particularly if there are no laws to prohibit such discrimination. 

Irwin has completed studies that focus on the health care challenges of lesbians in rural areas and found that many people feel isolated and are afraid to come out -- or risk discrimination in the medical office.

 

Nebraska's sheer size doesn't help. Sixteenth largest in the nation by geography, members of its LGBT community often live far from large cities with significant LGBT populations and with teaching hospitals with staff members who have experience working with members of that community.

The Human Rights Campaign's 2014 Healthcare Equality Index named four Nebraska health care facilities, all in Omaha, as leaders in LGBT health care equality. 

Omaha is on the state's eastern border with Iowa. LGBT residents in western Nebraska -- for instance, places like North Platte -- have to travel 270 miles in either direction, to Omaha or Denver, Colorado, to reach facilities designated as leaders by the Human Rights Campaign. 

People who work within the health care system have seen some improvement when it comes to treating members of the LGBT community. 

Jill Young is the client services manager at Nebraska AIDS Project's Scottsbluff, Nebraska, office in the western part of the state.

She recalled when she started working there in the late 1990s she saw medical staff refuse care to LGBT people with HIV/AIDS. 

"We had nurses, for example, who said they wouldn't serve patients with HIV/AIDS," Young said. "But we've come a long way since then." 

Young has seen more hospitals in the region adopting policies that are supportive of LGBT residents, including one that just started recognizing same-sex partners' wills as legal documents that will allow them access to their partners when they are being cared for in areas restricted to immediate family only.

But she said she still sees too many LGBT residents traveling great distances to get care and she still sees too many patients who don't seek medical care until it is too late. 

"We still go to the hospital," she said, "and see people who are days away from dying."

Eric Yarwood, 44, has more experience than he would like with Nebraska's health care facilities. 

He spent over 100 days last year at hospitals in Omaha for complications related to germ cell cancer.

He had nine rounds of chemotherapy, three stem cell transplants, his third surgery two weeks ago and five more days for followup last week. 

For all but four of the days he was in the hospital, his partner, Aaron Persen, 36, was at his side every evening. "Aaron and I are a unit," Yarwood said. "I can count on my fingers the number of times he didn't come." 

While the couple has found the overwhelming majority of physicians and medical staff to be "genuinely supportive" of their relationship, there still were a few instances when they felt uncomfortable and unaccepted, once with a physician and another time with a nurse. 

"I'm not sure how often the medical staff works with gay couples or receives training on how to work with gay couples," Yarwood said. 

Yarwood's prognosis is good, and the couple looks with optimism to a future of having more access to LGBT-inclusive health care facilities and a more inclusive state overall. 

"Hopefully, by the time we get through the cancer and save a little money," Persen said, "Nebraska will follow most other states and allow our relationship to be legally recognized."

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, doctors, medical, patients, hospital, patient, LGBT, clinics, medical care, providers

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