Kansas nurse practitioners seek independence

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Nurse practitioners in Kansas want to be able to practice independently of doctors.  They say it’s about improving your access to care.  But the state medical society says it’s not in the best interest of patients.

Cathy Gordon, a nurse practitioner, co-owns New Birth Company, a birthing center in Overland Park for women with low-risk pregnancies.  Under Kansas law, she and other nurse practitioners must have a supervising doctor although that doctor doesn’t have to be on-site.  However, the law says she no longer can practice if the doctor is incapacitated, dies or moves overseas.

“And it puts that barrier on our practice where we are now abandoning our own patient care,” said Gordon.

She favors a bill introduced in the Kansas Legislature again this session.  It would allow nurse practitioners to diagnose, treat and prescribe without an agreement with a doctor.

The Kansas Medical Society is opposed, saying the current law is there to protect patients.

“For those emergencies, and for those more difficult cases, and for knowing when not to be too easily satisfied with a diagnosis, you need to have a physician in the picture,” said Dr. Richard Warner, who serves on the society’s board of trustees.

Gordon argues that doctors still would be in the picture.

“We refer and consult constantly,” said Gordon.

Nurse practitioners say the change would improve access to high quality, low cost care, especially in rural Kansas. But Dr. Warner says the bill goes against the trend in health care.

“Which is toward collaborative arrangements,” he said.

Seventeen states, including neighboring Iowa and Colorado, allow nurse practitioners to have independent practices.

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