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NPs Boost State's Health and Economic Development

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2018

By: Emily Shipley, VP Government Affairs, State Chamber of Oklahoma 

A healthy business climate in Oklahoma depends on many factors — our cost of living, regulatory environment, corporate tax rates and more. In many of these areas, Oklahoma’s business environment is strong. One area where our state needs a check-up, however, is the health of our citizens and workforce.

The overall health of Oklahoma residents is poor compared to other states, and many in our state lack easy access to a primary care provider.

Oklahoma ranks 49th in physician-to-patient ratio, and significant portions of 76 of our 77 counties are designated primary care shortage areas. We desperately need more primary care providers, and this problem affects both the health of Oklahomans and economic development efforts in our state.

Businesses are unlikely to relocate, grow or expand in areas without adequate access to health care for their employees. Granting full practice authority to nurse practitioners could change that.

Every day in Oklahoma, thousands of people already rely on nurse practitioners for their primary care. For some, seeing a NP is a personal preference; for others, NPs are the only viable option, given the scarcity of primary care providers in many rural areas. 

Under Oklahoma’s current regulations, nurse practitioners must have a signed “collaborative agreement” with a physician, even though little or no collaboration may take place. Often, these agreements are merely signatures on a piece of paper, signatures that can cost a nurse practitioner thousands of dollars each month. 

Decades ago, when advance practice registered nurses were a new concept, this sort of regulation may have made sense. However, nurse practitioners have proven their effectiveness and professionalism over the years. 

Today, this regulation is unnecessary red tape that creates a financial barrier to opening new clinics. Without additional providers and greater access to health care services, Oklahoma will maintain its poor health outcomes and perpetuate the status quo. Oklahomans need health care that is both affordable and close to home.

There are nurse practitioners across the state ready to do their part caring for Oklahomans who live and work in designated primary care shortage areas/underserved communities. Plus, creating a more favorable regulatory environment could draw nurse practitioners from neighboring Texas, where they face similar restrictions.

This idea is cropping up across the country, with 22 states and the District of Columbia having already modernized their laws and regulations to provide greater health care access. Oklahomans deserve the same access.

Full practice authority for nurse practitioners will support economic development efforts across our state and provide Oklahoma businesses a healthier and more prosperous workforce. We look forward to supporting the legislature as they tackle this important health care issue.

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