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Bill aimed to give nurse practitioners more authority passes committee

OKLAHOMA CITY - Nurse practitioners traded in the medical office for the Oklahoma State Capitol Tuesday in an effort for more independence in treating patients.

"We can practice, but we can't prescribe many medications that many of our patients need," said Margaret Rosales, a family nurse practitioner.

They're advocating for House Bill 1013, which would give certified nurse practitioners more authority in caring for patients on their own, including writing prescriptions without doctor supervision.

It's a costly expense for a nurse practitioner who owns her own facility.

"I own my own clinic, and currently we have to have a supervising physician, which means we have to pay for that service. That's an expense, and I don't have very many employees,” said Kristi Sager, an advanced registered nurse practitioner.

She pays two doctors $1,000 a month, but the bill would do away with the contract mandate.

Nurse practitioners also said it would help with a primary care health professional shortage seen in 64 Oklahoma counties, which has caused Oklahoma to rank 49th in physician to patient ratio.

"If I did not have to hire another supervising physician for me or other providers, I could open up the hours in my clinic and have more providers," Sager said.

But, some doctors don't think giving practitioners more independence will translate to caring for patients in rural areas.

"The medical association has a map where the practitioners practice and where the physicians practice in Oklahoma, and they virtually overlap,” said Dr. Sherri Baker, a pediatric cardiologist.

Baker said she spent 14 years training before going to residency, which is longer than nurse practitioners.

A nurse practitioner is required to receive a master’s degree and up to 700 hours of on the job training.

"They have a role. They are vital, these physician extenders, but I think we have to understand education is not the same, and so you can't treat them the same," Baker said.

Currently, full authority has been granted in 21 other states.