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AARP says nurse practitioners can help Oklahoma’s rural areas

AARP Oklahoma has announced its support of a measure that would increase Oklahomans' access to health care, take steps toward addressing the shortage of primary health care providers, and support caregivers.

House Bill 1013, by Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) and Senate author A.J. Griffin (R-Guthrie), would grant Oklahoma nurse practitioners (NPs) the freedom to practice to the full extent of their education and training, enabling them to serve Oklahomans where care is most needed. 

This is especially important in rural areas of the state that are medically underserved.

"Oklahomans already face a shortage of primary care providers and that problem will only become more acute as our population ages," said Sean Voskuhl, state director of AARP Oklahoma. "The shortage means some Oklahomans are driving long distances and waiting days for appointments for primary care, not to mention a lack of consumer choice. Delays in care not only hurt the consumers, but place added stress on family caregivers, who are all too often overwhelmed with bearing the brunt of providing and overseeing the care of a loved one." 

A January 2016 SoonerPoll surveyed 410 likely voters asking, "Do you support or oppose allowing nurse practitioners, who have advanced training, to serve as the primary or acute care provider of record for a patient?" In response, 86.7 percent said they support allowing a nurse practitioner to operate with full practice authority.

Retired Registered Nurse and AARP Executive Board Member Mary Overall said, "HB 1013 is a common-sense measure that will help increase access to quality health care for all Oklahomans. Nurse practitioners are highly educated, have years of training and are eager to serve their fellow Oklahomans. Lawmakers should give them that chance."

Under current state law, nurse practitioners must pay for a collaborative agreement with a doctor in order to work, even though the doctors may never see a NP's patients or review their charts. HB 1013 would not change the scope of practice for NPs, but would eliminate a needless and antiquated regulatory burden.

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who holds a master's or doctoral degree and is prepared to provide a wide range of preventative and health care services. 

Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Indian Affairs grant full practice authority to NPs. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently granted full practice authority to all NPs working in veterans' facilities anywhere in the country. 

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