KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Nursing Workforce Issues: An Expanded Role For Nurse Practitioners, Calif. Doctors Sue For Supervision Of Nurse Anesthetists

News outlets report on nursing workforce issues, including a push for an expanded role for nurse practitioners, supervision of nurse anesthetists and a trend toward delayed retirement.

"Nursing leaders say large numbers of [nurse] practitioners ... will be needed to fill gaps in primary care left by an increasing shortage of doctors, a problem that would intensify if Congress extends health insurance to millions more Americans," Kaiser Health News reports. "Advocates say nurse practitioners have the extra education and training needed to perform a variety of services, including physical exams, diagnosis and treatment of common ailments and prescribing drugs. But the American Medical Association and doctors' groups at the state level have been urging state legislators and licensing authorities to move cautiously, arguing that patient care could be compromised." While the "battle has been waged for years" pressure is growing use nurse practitioners to fill the gap left by the growing shortage of primary care physicians (Villegas, 2/22).

Meanwhile, doctors in California are suing to require nurse anesthetists be supervised, American Medical News reports. "Patient safety remains at risk unless a new California regulation allowing nurse anesthetists to administer anesthesia to hospital Medicare patients without physician supervision is withdrawn, according to a lawsuit initiated by two state physician organizations. The suit, filed Feb. 1 by the California Medical Assn. and California Society of Anesthesiologists, seeks to block Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to opt out of a Medicare provision requiring physician supervision of certified registered nurse anesthetists" (Sorrel, 2/22).

The Virginian-Pilot: "About 30 percent of the state's registered nurses between ages 66 and 70 said they planned to work at least another five years, according to a recent survey by the Virginia Department of Health Professions. More than 40 percent of the state's licensed practical nurses in that age group said they would stay on the job another 10 years or more. The trend is helping to temporarily relieve the state's nursing shortage" (Jeter, 2/21).

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