New Jersey expands access to care during COVID-19 pandemic

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Image by Silas Camargo Sil√£o from Pixabay
Urban News Staff Reports

New Jersey is among the five states suspending state regulatory barriers that limit nurse practitioners (NP) from combatting the growing COVID-19 crisis.

The other states are Kentucky, Louisiana, New York and Wisconsin. The actions taken by these governors enable their states to surge the number of frontline care providers, treat patients with underlying health conditions and meet vital primary care needs. American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is calling on the remaining governors to take immediate action to waive restrictive barriers that undermine patients' access to NP-provided care.

"We're encouraged that the governors of Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin have taken action to fully utilize our highly-trained NP workforce to respond to this unprecedented pandemic. With the worst of the crisis yet to unfold and personal protective equipment shortages exacting a heavy toll on the health of frontline health care providers, we need the rest of the nation's governors to lift barriers now. We cannot afford to sideline qualified NPs from providing care or hinder them from providing telehealth across state lines," said AANP President Sophia Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP, FNAP, FAANP. "We have been hearing from frontline NPs in states with outdated regulations that it's often easier to volunteer in other states than to serve in their own communities. In fact, some are being recruited away from the states they currently reside and practice in, to more inclusive practice environments, leaving patients at risk of little to no access to care. It's more urgent than ever that the remaining governors act decisively to eliminate these needless barriers to care and unleash the potential of their state's NP workforce to combat this pandemic."

In 22 states, the District of Columbia, two U.S. territories, the Veterans Health Administration and the Indian Health Service, NPs were already permanently authorized to provide direct patient care before the pandemic. In the remaining jurisdictions, outdated regulations make it illegal for NPs to provide care unless they maintain a collaborative or supervisory contract with a physician. This requirement needlessly restricts the number of NPs who could otherwise evaluate, diagnose and treat patients, especially in times of crisis. Further, it creates unnecessary geographic access challenges and delays in care.

NPs evaluate patients; make diagnoses; order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests; and initiate and manage treatments ― including prescribing medications and non-pharmacologic treatments. Additionally, NPs coordinate care and provide counseling and education to patients, families and communities.

In 2012, the National Governors Association recommended that states consider easing these restrictions as a way to improve access to care. Waiving these requirements is a safe and reliable way to remove a significant roadblock toward ensuring states have the necessary health care workforce capacity our nation needs at this critical moment.

States should also expand emergency health care workforce declarations authorizing out-of-state health care licensees to include clinicians with retired or inactive status to resume work, provided their inactive or expired license was in good standing. Addressing our nation's needs will require all available hands on deck. Given the nationwide scale of COVID-19 cases, states will not be able to rely on neighboring states to send health care providers to meet the demand. Authorizing recent licensees to return to the workforce offers a way to bolster our reserves and utilize the qualified clinicians already in our communities. A growing number of states are taking at least one of these actions, and AANP is urging all governors to adopt similar measures. To view a map of the states' emergency licensure COVID-19 responses, visit https://bit.ly/3bHRQFI.

NPs are practicing in every setting and geographic area impacted by COVID-19. Removing barriers to care across the health care system will ensure that they can bring their knowledge and skill to treat patients and help the nation fight back during this crisis.

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