Working to Protect Patient Safety

There are sound reasons for the Oklahoma State Medical Association’s (OSMA) opposition to nurse practitioners’ initiatives to perform their roles without physician supervision.

Nurses are a vital part of the health care team, but they simply do not possess the same level of training and clinical expertise as a medical doctor. Physicians’ experience and approaches to the scientific nuances of medical care benefit the quality of patient care.  Physicians completed medical school and extensive years of rigorous training in order to be competent to provide medical care and supervise the provision of that care.  The number of years itself is typically double what nurse practitioners spend in training.

Research also indicates patients prefer to have their care provided in a team-based setting with physicians making sure their care is coordinated among multiple providers. The best patient care is team-based care, in which the various practitioners are communicating and working with the patient's best interest in mind. Fragmented healthcare promotes barriers between providers that can result in a lower quality of care.

Removing physician oversight of nurse practitioners will not significantly help rural health access. The geographic distribution of nurse practitioners in Oklahoma mirrors that of physicians and studies from other states that have adopted independent practice have not shown any significant increase in the number of nurse practitioners moving to rural areas. To improve access to care in rural Oklahoma, we must work to recruit a variety of health care providers.

OSMA is committed to decreasing opioid abuse.  To do this, prescribers must carefully evaluate the true need and treatment options for battling pain.  At a time when we already have a crisis of addiction to opioids and other powerful drugs, it makes no sense to allow hundreds of new practitioners to prescribe dangerous Schedule II drugs.

Certainly, we need to do more to promote health care in rural areas. However, without physicians involved, there will almost certainly be unintended consequences that are detrimental to the safety and wellbeing of Oklahoma patients. The Oklahoma State Medical Association will not support anything less than the highest quality medicine for all our citizens.