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HB 1013 Gains Momentum

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 10, 2017
Momentum is building behind HB 1013, which would let nurse practitioners put their full education and training to use caring for Oklahomans. The measure passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives last week and is waiting on a hearing in a Senate committee.

That momentum isn’t surprising. A large majority of Oklahomans supports the idea, according to a poll conducted by AARP Oklahoma.

The poll, released in January 2016, asked 410 likely voters, “Do you support or oppose allowing nurse practitioners, who have advanced training, to serve as the primary or acute care provider of record for a patient?” In response, 86.7% said they support allowing a nurse practitioner to operate with full practice authority.

The truth is, Oklahomans want better access to quality, affordable health care. Too many Oklahomans drive long distances and wait days for appointments. It’s not just about the inconvenience of long drives; it’s a problem that harms the health of our residents.

Some opponents of HB 1013 have argued it would create a “two-tier” health care system. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A number of studies have looked at the health outcomes of patients who see physicians vs. those who see nurse practitioners. Those studies overwhelmingly concluded that nurse practitioners have patient outcomes equivalent to those of doctors.

The National Governors Association reviewed the evidence and wrote, “None of the studies in NGA’s literature review raise concerns about the quality of care offered by NPs. Most studies showed that NP-provided care is comparable to physician-provided care on several process and outcome measures. Moreover, the studies suggest that NPs may provide improved access to care.”

The truth is that Oklahoma already has a two-tier health care system. HB 1013 is a step toward addressing that. Sixty-four of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are designated as primary care shortage areas and our state ranks 49th in physician-to-patient ratio. Our state ranks 46th in health overall. Oklahoma needs more health care providers.

HB 1013 is hardly a radical idea. Just last month South Dakota became the 22nd state to authorize nurse practitioners to work to the full extent of their education and training. HB 1013 is a simple, common-sense step forward in addressing the provider shortage. 

Oklahomans deserve the same consumer choice and access to care that residents of nearly half the states already enjoy. If you agree, please contact your state Senator and ask them to support HB 1013.

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Legislative Day Leads to House Success

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 2, 2017


We’ve cleared the next hurdle on the track to full practice authority! HB 1013 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 1 by a 72-20 margin. That success was due in no small part to your hard work and all those who made the time to visit legislators during our annual Legislative Day at the Capitol. Thank you!

On Feb. 14, several dozen NPs and APRNs attended and engaged with legislators to explain and advocate for this legislation. Attendees heard from speakers including Sen. AJ Griffin, who is the Senate author of House Bill 1013. AONP President Toni Pratt-Reid and AONP Executive Director Benny Vanatta shared an update of our progress and the status of HB 1013.

We also heard from Mary Overall, a member of AARP Oklahoma’s Executive Council and a retired registered nurse and former CEO for Central Oklahoma Carelink, who noted, “The role of the advanced practice nurse is important. You are a leader and an advocate in seeing that Oklahomans get the care that they need.” The AARP also had several volunteers out talking to legislators and supporting the measure.

Our legislative day at the Capitol garnered news coverage on both Oklahoma City and Tulsa TV stations, and the day was covered in newspapers across the state. We are hopeful that this momentum will continue to grow as the legislative session continues this spring!

Don’t let up because there is still work to be done. Our attention now turns to the state Senate. If you haven’t yet spoken with your state senators, take some time to engage today. Our blog about preparing for the legislative session includes tips for connecting with your legislators and information about other AONP resources to utilize. When you call their office, be sure to request a return call and offer to answer questions or address any concerns. We hope you will continue to advocate for increased access to health care for all Oklahomans! 

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Full Practice Authority Would Benefit All Oklahomans

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This year, the Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners is proud to be working with Rep. Josh Cockroft on legislation that will improve access to quality health care for all Oklahomans without any cost to state taxpayers.

House Bill 1013, sponsored by Rep. Cockroft, would allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to practice to the full extent of their education and prescribe medications consistent with their training. This would give Oklahomans in rural areas and across the state more health care choices for themselves and their families. The measure would do away with the antiquated requirement that NPs pay for “collaborative agreements” with a physician, even though little or no collaboration actually occurs.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already grant full practice authority to nurse practitioners. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently granted full practice authority to nurse practitioners working in V.A. facilities, trusting them to do their part in caring for the heroes who have served our country.

The benefits to Oklahoma are obvious. Of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, 64 are designated as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas, state Health Department statistics show. Our state is ranked 49th in physician-to-patient ratio. That means Oklahomans in rural areas are driving long distances and spending hours in waiting rooms for primary care services.

We can do better.

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who is prepared, through advanced education, including completion of a master’s or doctoral degree, and clinical training, to provide a wide range of preventative and health care services.

In Oklahoma, nurse practitioners practice with an independent license. They can provide physical examinations, diagnose and treat acute and chronic problems, interpret laboratory results and X-rays, provide training and supportive counseling on the prevention of illness, and refer patients to other health professionals as needed.

Nurse practitioners are also educated to prescribe and manage medications, though NPs in Oklahoma must pay for a collaborative agreement with a physician to do so, even though the physician does not review patient charts or supervise care.

Nothing in HB 1013 would change nurse practitioners’ scope of practice. What the bill would do is cut through red tape that limits the number of NPs practicing in Oklahoma and places an unnecessary financial burden on the ones who do.

There is a health care crisis in rural Oklahoma, but the legislature can take action this year to bring quality health care closer to the Oklahomans who need it.

Thousands of Oklahomans already trust nurse practitioners for their primary health care needs. Lawmakers can make this option even more readily available to all residents of our state. Full practice authority means shorter drives and less wait time, greater consumer choice, less government red tape and, most of all, a healthier Oklahoma.

Please call or email your state representative today and ask them to support, or even better, to co-author HB 1013. If you’re unsure who represents you at the state Capitol, you can find out here.


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Gearing Up for the Upcoming Legislative Session

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 27, 2016


The legislative session commences in a little more than a month. Session officially begins on Feb. 6, but there is much we can do before then. Rep. Josh Cockroft has already requested that a bill seeking full practice authority be drafted, so now is the time to begin talking to legislators about full practice authority. Personal connections are key to our success in achieving our legislative goals in 2017.

Don’t underestimate your influence as you connect with legislators. Legislators care about the issues raised by their constituents. Connecting with your legislators in person will make a difference. Before contacting your legislators, take time to research and learn about them, their voting records and their committee assignments. You can find your legislators’ contact information and background information on the Oklahoma State Legislature website.

The FPA toolkit for NPs is a great resource as you prepare to meet with legislators. The toolkit on the website includes tips for contacting your legislators, a white paper and talking points for full practice authority, a public speaking guide and PowerPoint presentation, a full practice authority infographic and more.

Last month we shared the full video of Katherine Hoebelheinrich, MS, APRN, presenting at the AONP Annual Conference. Watching her presentation is another great way to prepare for engaging legislators. She shared her firsthand experience of how nurse practitioners in Nebraska worked to secure full practice authority and she encouraged Oklahoma’s nurse practitioners to tell our stories to reveal the struggles NPs and their patients face.

We encourage you to establish relationships with your legislators now. Spending time sharing your story and illustrating the important role NPs play in their communities is the primary way to grow support during the forthcoming legislative session.

We will keep members updated throughout the next few months and during the legislative session via email and on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). We would love to hear about your successes engaging with your legislators! You can connect with us and share your stories through the contact page on our website. 

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22nd Annual AONP Conference in Review

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Success! The AONP Annual Conference took place October 19 – 21, and it was the best yet. It was a wonderful time learning from amazing speakers and networking with nurse practitioners and NP students from across the state. Attendance was high, with almost 400 attendees, and we are thankful for all who attended! We loved seeing everyone connecting over lunch at the food trucks and between sessions.

The four pre-conference workshops covered diverse topics, including basic principles of suturing and a diabetic boot camp. The plenary sessions were led by medical professionals from diverse disciplines, and each session’s content was rich and informative. A few of the many topics discussed were diabetes, cardiovascular health, antibiotics and infectious disease.

Katherine Hoebelheinrich, MS, APRN, shared her firsthand experience with nurse practitioners in Nebraska working to secure full practice authority. She led the statutory Scope of Practice Credentialing Review that preceded NNP’s successful legislative initiative for full practice authority. 

Hoebelheinrich’s encouragement to Oklahoma’s nurse practitioners was to get to know our legislators and to tell our stories to illustrate the problems facing our profession and our patients. If you are interested in connecting with and supporting legislative candidates, be sure to read last month’s blog

Her address, along with the other speakers, continued to build our momentum toward the upcoming legislative season. David Holland, a past-president of AONP, reminded attendees “this is a great time to reach out to the candidates. Many don’t know the first thing about FPA. Educate them, gain their support.”

We look forward to pushing toward full practice authority and allowing nurse practitioners to work at the full scope of their education. You can watch Katherine Hoebelheinrich's full presentation in the video below. 





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Supporting Candidates this Election Season

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 5, 2016

As you know, campaign season is in full swing and it is vitally important that we connect with legislative candidates from across the state to build relationships and engage in discussion about full practice authority for NPs. Connecting with the candidates in the weeks prior to the November election will be beneficial as we look toward the next legislative session as well.


The simplest way to find the names of your local candidates is to visit the State Election Board’s website to view your sample ballot. You will be asked to type in your first and last name and your date of birth. Then you will see the sample ballot with the names of the legislative candidates for your district. Finding their contact information on a Facebook page or by using Google is usually pretty easy after that.


Reach out to the candidates in your district either by phone or by email and get to know them. Ask the candidates about full practice authority and other health care issues that are important to nurse practitioners. If the candidate does not know about the benefits of full practice authority, take the time to educate them. The FPA Tool Kit for NPs on our website might be helpful for you as you start to think about your talking points and help answer questions the candidate might have. Most importantly, share the reasons why you believe full practice authority is best for Oklahomans. 


Nurse practitioners offer a solution for affordable and accessible healthcare in Oklahoma and if your candidate seems to agree, let us know! Be sure to email AONP Executive Director Benny Vanatta.


Beyond that, offer to volunteer to help with their campaign. Every campaign needs good volunteers. This time of year, most candidates are out knocking on doors with volunteers every Saturday and many weekday evenings. We have a couple more dates scheduled to volunteer as a group and we would love for you to join us.  

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Featured NP: Ferdie Dijoto

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 19, 2016

The important role Nurse Practitioners (NPs) play only grows as the rights of NPs change. NPs are leaving a global impact by treating patients in other countries who wouldn’t normally have access to the kind of comprehensive healthcare an NP can provide. Ferdie Dijoto understands the need for better access to medical care first-hand, and if she gets her way, NPs will play an even bigger role in providing that care.


1. We know you're originally from Africa. When did you move to the United States and why?

I am originally from Cameroon (West-central Africa) and my prior education was in French. I moved to the United States of America 15 years ago for a better future and standard of living for my family and me.


2. Tell us what it was like growing up with a father who is a Physician Assistant.

Growing up with a father who played a huge role in helping people with their healthcare issues was extremely inspiring. My grandmother also inspired me. She was a dedicated midwife. Most evenings and weekends, many of our neighbors waited on my father in my childhood home for assistance with their acute and chronic health issues. He joyfully helped everyone (mostly for free). His work ethic and his love for the work he did were contagious and selfless. Growing up with him, I always prayed to have the same energy, drive and dedication to help people in need.


3. What made you decide to pursue a career as an NP?

When I graduated from high school in Cameroon, there was only one medical school. Due to this limitation, it was a widely known fact that the admission process for the only medical school was corrupted and reserved only for famous and wealthy families. I applied twice but was unsuccessful despite being a qualified candidate. I was extremely disappointed. Following the advice of my college counselor, I majored in biochemistry with the hope to work in medical research upon graduation. During my second year in college, I also volunteered with non-profit organizations for the fight against Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). I spent most weekends traveling to many villages educating the population about HIV/AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). When I moved to the USA, I worked as a research assistant. However, there was no fulfillment. I always felt like something was missing. After taking a few pre-requisites, I was admitted at Georgetown University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I worked as a critical care nurse, clinical informaticist and a performance improvement/quality nurse. However, the following motivated me to want to become an NP: - I am always eager to learn more because, in nursing, opportunities for personal and professional betterment are endless. - The U.S. population is aging, living longer and in need of more primary care services and providers. - I also want to become a change agent to help reform the healthcare system and bridge the healthcare gap in Cameroon.


4. What is your favorite part about being an NP?

There are several reasons I like being an NP. My favorite part is building long-lasting relationships with my patients. Also, I like the emphasis on healthcare prevention including holistic health education. When a person is treated as a whole, it leads to increased compliance and better outcomes.


5. What do you hope to do or see within your profession in the next 10 years?

NPs are compassionate, caring, skilled and capable of diagnosing and treating many acute and chronic conditions. I am hoping that NPs in the State of Oklahoma (just like 21 other states in our country) will have gained full prescriptive authority within the full scope of their practice. NPs are well educated, trained and ready to work independently from physicians. My personal goal is to graduate in two years with a Clinical Doctorate of Nursing from Oklahoma City University, work to gain more experience, be a part of health care policymakers and open my own clinic.


6. Tell us about the most rewarding experience you've had in your practice.

It is always a blessing to see patients recover from an illness or healthcare crisis, or seeing patients motivated to adopt healthy choices in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


7. What would you like to say to someone considering a career as an NP?

Go for it. The sooner, the better. There are many ways to impact the patients that entrust their healthcare needs to us. This also impacts the community in which we live in. In light of the global impact NPs can make, it’s more important than ever that our legislators give NPs the right to practice without the oversight of a physician. Change agents like Ferdie are the catalysts we need to advance the field and allow us to make a difference not only abroad, but also in our own backyard.

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Featured NP: Ellen Huffmaster

Posted By Administrator, Monday, August 22, 2016

When you combine rural Oklahoma and a specialty such as mental health, you find there aren’t a lot of options available. Ellen Huffmaster wants to change that. As a family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Ellen believes NPs can play a significant role in providing services to those living in rural areas that they might not otherwise have access, and she is especially passionate about the role NPs can play in the mental health community. We recently spoke with Ellen about why she became an NP and how she hopes to see the NP’s role grow in Oklahoma.

1. Why did you decide to pursue a career as an NP? 

I decided to become an NP after being a RN for more than 17 years. I saw a huge gap in psychiatric services being delivered to individuals in my community. Enid is not a small town, but it did not have adequate psychiatric services. There were plenty of counselors, but medication management was a huge gap. Local family doctors, NPs or physician assistants were left to manage psychiatric medications or individuals had to drive to Tulsa or Oklahoma City to see a psychiatrist or PMHNP. This left many adults and children with inadequate services for managing their psychiatric medications. This was my primary passion for deciding to return to school.  

2. How did you decide to specialize as a family mental health psychiatric NP? 

I knew that this was the one area of specialties that was lacking professionals. At the time I started school, I believe there were only about 12 NPs with psychiatric specialty training. 

3. How would you like to see your profession change over the next 10 years? 

I would love to see more NPs specializing in psychiatry. I believe that independent practice is essential for the role of NPs to be fully utilized in Oklahoma. Many states have already adapted to full practice authority. Oklahoma needs to work quickly on this. Independent practice would have allowed me to open a practice in Enid, Oklahoma.  Right now there is not a full time psychiatrist in Enid, which has kept me from expanding available services. The limited number of psychiatrists in our region limits expanding services under the current rules and regulations for NPs.

4. Tell us about the most rewarding experiences you’ve had in your practice. 

The most rewarding thing in practicing psychiatry is seeing an individual change emotionally and physically. I have had patients thank me for adjusting their medications to the point of being able to function better in society. Mental health treatment changes individuals. It can open the door for people who feared being around others to becoming a professional with a full time job. My patients make my job worth all of the stress on a regular basis. I love my job. 

5. You have a passion for the role NPs play in mental health and other specialties. Tell us about that.

The ability of NPs to specialize allows us to provide quality care in many areas of practice that are currently underserved. The specialty programs in NP training allow NPs to focus on certain areas of practice. This increases the number of specialists that are available in communities both urban and rural. Specialties are always needed especially in rural areas. I envision NPs providing more specialty services in the underserved areas in the future. This will increase access to care for patients, which is vital to keeping Oklahoma healthy. 

6. What would you like to say to someone considering a career as an NP?

Go for it. Be dedicated and determined to providing quality care to your patients. Know that it will take a lot of work, time and dedication to complete, but it is worth it. Being an NP has been a great privilege for me. My family has had to make a lot of sacrifices, but overall the job satisfaction is worth all of the struggles.  

Ellen has made it clear that rural health care is in crisis. There are not enough options for specialized health care, especially when it comes to mental health, in small towns and farming communities across our state. Patients have to drive too far to get their hands on the treatments and medications they need to live full and meaningful lives. Oklahoma’s shortage of rural specialty health care providers will only continue to limit access as populations grow. It’s essential NPs be granted the opportunity to build independent practices in their communities.

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Spreading the Message - We Need Your Stories!

Posted By AONP, Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Spreading the Message - We Need Your Stories


The Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners has an important mission. We need to spread the news of the importance of nurse practitioners in the health care system. This is why we need you – we need your stories!


We all want a better health care system, and the power to change the system lies with the public and with our local legislators. When we have a wealth of stories illustrating how NPs are vital to the health care system, we can place the stories in front of legislators and the public.


If you have a story about helping a patient receive care who wasn’t able to see a doctor, we want to know your story. If you are giving care to patients in rural areas who are not able to see a physician, let us know. If you know a fellow NP who has gone above and beyond to help a patient, tell us about them.

If you are passionate about nurse practitioners having full practice authority, we want to hear you.


We intend to spread the message far and wide. We’ll use our blogs, newsletters and social media pages to publish your stories. We want everyone in Oklahoma to know how vital NPs are to health care in Oklahoma. Help us spread the message – send us your story today!






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The Primary Care Gap - And A Solution

Posted By AONP, Friday, June 3, 2016

The Primary Care Gap – And A Solution


Nurse practitioners have always helped patients receive care more easily. Today, there is a growing gap between the number of patients who need primary care and the number and availability of primary care providers. Many patients are waiting longer than they should to receive care due to inaccessibility to primary care physicians.


Often, physicians decide in medical school to specialize. This has left a gap in the primary care setting and has presented an opportunity for advanced practice nurses. Although the advanced practice degrees include specialty pathways the most common are family and pediatrics.


The simplest and most obvious way nurse practitioners have been a part of the solution has been availability. Michelle Ellenburg M.S.N., R.N. with St. Anthony Hospital. “We definitely have quicker access. Everyone can get in to see a nurse practitioner eventually. I’ve had a handful of patients who have been referred to me from the E.R., who have had no primary care provider. One lady was diagnosed with diabetes while in the hospital. She had no access to any care, and she came in and saw me. We got her tools to monitor her diabetes, and in the last 6 months we’ve gotten her diabetes really under control!”


Many times the sheer speed of receiving care can make a significant impact. “When patients like her are able to get in to see me in the first couple of days after her hospital visit, I think that makes the difference. When people get big diagnoses like that, and on top of it you tell them, ‘these are the lifestyle changes you have to make’, it’s a bigger impact when you are able to tell them immediately after their diagnosis.”


We have already seen the impact of nurse practitioners on the health care systems of rural areas. Michelle Ellenburg had quite a few friends that she graduated with at the University of Oklahoma who were from rural areas and all went back to their own communities. “Just talking with them briefly since then, you can tell that they’re really busy. I’m getting busy, but I’m in the city, and there are a lot of care providers to see. They’ve all been crazy busy because there are so many people that need health care who haven’t been able to receive it before. Or their patients were driving long distances to receive care, and now they are able to get care in their own communities. Nurse practitioners are definitely filling that gap.”


Not only are nurse practitioners more available, but also their bedside manner is impressive. “Nurse practitioners are great, specifically more holistic… we spend more time getting to know you and understand why you make the decisions you’re making. Like maybe you can’t afford your blood pressure medication, so we do a good job of help people getting resources like that, so I think we’re awesome. Almost all of my patients say, ‘You know, it’s so nice to feel like I’m heard’. I feel like I’ve heard that a lot lately. That is because, you know, I worked along the bedside, and I was trained as a nurse, and that’s just usually our mannerisms.”


Nurse practitioners are more available, uniquely qualified and carefully trained in bedside patient care. As health care advances across the country, nurse practitioners will continue to play a vital role in primary care.




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