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Nurse Practitioners Granted Full Practice Authority in Delaware

By Stephanie Stephens On Oct 6, 2021

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Delaware has granted nurse practitioners (NPs) full practice authority, which has already occurred in twenty-three other states, the District of Columbia, and two United States territories. It follows Massachusetts this year, which did the same on January 1.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), that means NPs can

"evaluate patients; diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests; and initiate and manage treatments, including prescribing medications and controlled substances, under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing."

Behind all of that is the ability to increase access and eliminate healthcare disparities, said the association’s President, April N. Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP- BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN, in a statement.

As a study in the July 2018 issue of Healthcare noted, "If Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (including nurse practitioners) are permitted to practice to the full extent of their education and training, this could build the necessary workforce to satisfy the health care needs of an increasing number of people, especially those living in medically underserved regions."

Delaware Boosts Primary Care

The American Medical Association says that even though nurse practitioner numbers have increased, healthcare shortages still persist, even in states such as Delaware, where NPs can now practice independently. It also says that nonphysician providers usually practice in the same geographic locations as physicians.

[ Read: What You Need to Know About the Nursing Shortage ]

Rural areas are historically short on all practitioners, and one "might surmise" that NPs and other healthcare professionals might be prone to go to those areas to help reduce disparities there. The Rural Health Information Hub showed in April that Delaware has only four Federally Qualified Health Centers outside of urbanized areas.

In January 2019, Delaware reported that full-time equivalent primary care physicians providing direct patient care there in 2018 declined approximately 6 percent from 2013. It also said that the percentage of primary care physicians who hired "advanced practice nurses, physician assistants and others" rose six points from 2013, to approximately 62 percent from 56 percent.

In mid-July, the state’s General Assembly passed a bill that gives a boost to primary care, by limiting price increases from hospitals and other non-professional services, it said. It also expects health insurance companies and health systems to collaborate toward better value for consumers.

NPs in High Demand

As recognition of lack of access has come front and center due to COVID-19, momentum has built to find solutions. Even the National Academy of Medicine’s hallmark report, "The Future of Nursing," says its expert committee will consider nurses’ role in providing "accessible care for all across the care continuum."

[ Read: Benefits to a Career in Nursing ]

NPs are in high demand nationwide, says search firm and Health eCareers recruiting partner Merrit Hawkins, in a major report it issues annually. For twenty-seven years, the firm says, physicians took the top spot of "most recruited providers," but this year, that honor went to NPs.

Tom Florence, president of Merritt Hawkins, said in a statement that "NPs are coming into their own in a market that puts a premium on easy access to care and cost containment."

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