Once upon a time, nurses were not allowed to take blood pressure – only the doctor could do that. Times change.
But they haven’t changed enough. For 19 years, nurse practitioners in Florida have tried to get the right to practice to the full extent of our education and capability, which includes prescribing scheduled substances. So far, our efforts have been fruitless.
A whopping 48 states already allow prescriptive privileges for nurse practitioners, without issue. An Institute of Medicine report from 2010 argues that nurse practitioners should be allowed to practice to the full extent of our education and capabilities. We are cost effective, making 85 percent of the physicians' Medicare rates, and with the expected influx of new patients under the Affordable Care Act, there are just not enough physicians to care of everybody.
I have two Ivy League degrees from Penn and Columbia. If I had wanted to be a physician, I would have gone to medical school. I have been a psychiatric nurse since 1977 and an advanced practice nurse since 1984. Nursing has a different philosophy of care than medicine and we are all about empowering patients to take responsibility for their own healthcare. It’s sort of like teaching someone to fish rather than giving them a fish.
I have an excellent relationship with my collaborating physician, and we learn from each other. But we are in separate offices because we each have our own private practice. That means whenever one of my patients needs a prescription for a stimulant, I have to tell them to come back to the office in a few days to pick it up. Because my patients come from as far away as Miami, that means driving all the way to Boca Raton and back again just to pick up a prescription. It is a hardship for them.
Nurse practitioners have suffered with restraints of trade long enough. Let us practice to the full extent of our capabilities – like nurse practitioners in 48 other states.
Valerie Kolbert has lived in Boca Raton since 1986. She is a private practice nurse practitioner, specializing in adult and geriatric psychiatry.
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