CA Bills Could Extend Nurse Practitioner and Pharmacist Roles

Two bills could expand the roles of nurse practitioners and pharmacists in California, as experts debate the scope of care they should provide in clinical settings.

Two bills could expand the roles of nurse practitioners and pharmacists in California, as experts debate the scope of care they should provide in clinical settings. The rulings stir controversy as some question whether or not these professionals would be capable of providing quality medical services.

Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) wrote the bills SB 491 and SB 493 intending to allow nurse practitioners and pharmacists to operate independent of physicians in medical facilities including those like hospitals or clinics.

"We heard thoughtful testimony last week and it was clear that members wanted to find common ground to help California bridge the provider gap and ensure that we all have access to quality healthcare," said Sen. Hernandez.

With SB 491, doctors worry about patient safety under nurse practitioner care.

“If SB 491 becomes law, nurse practitioners will be allowed to practice without any supervision by a physician, despite the enormous differences in education and training between the two," said Dr Paul Phinney, president of the California Medical Association. "SB 491 allows nurse practitioners to diagnose and treat patients beyond their capabilities and without any additional training, jeopardizing patient safety."

SB 493, which allows pharmacists to administer certain vaccines and prescribe drugs like nicotine patches or hormonal contraceptives, was better received. It passed 18-0 in the California Assembly Health Committee.

With health reform law, there are worries as to whether there will be enough doctors to meet the volume of patients seeking care. Bill supporters see the change in regulations as an opportunity to meet demands, and increase people’s access to providers.

"If we are going to be mandating that every single person buy health insurance, then we better make sure that there’s enough people to see these people safely," added Hernandez.

Around the Web

California Nurse Practitioner Bill, with Major Changes, Advances in Legislature

[The Modesto Bee]

Bills on Nurse Practitioners, Pharmacists Advance in Assembly [Los Angeles Times]