EXTEND PRESCRIPTION PRIVILEGES
January 30, 2006
It's past time for Georgia to make basic medical care more convenient and help control costs by allowing nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for patients with minor illnesses and chronic conditions, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).
- Georgia is the only state that forbids nurses with advanced practice degrees from writing a prescription without first getting permission from a physician.
- Removing that antiquated restriction on specially certified nurses would make providing basic care in underserved rural areas much easier.
- It would also cut down on waiting times and free doctors to tackle more difficult cases during peak cold and flu seasons, when patients flood clinics with cases of bronchitis, sinusitis and other common conditions.
When the state medical licensing board determined that physicians need not be present at clinics, it inadvertently kicked open the door for allowing nurse practitioners to write prescriptions, explains the AJC.
- A for-profit firm, MinuteClinic, set up shop inside several metro Atlanta locations of a major drugstore chain; the clinics offer basic medical care using advanced practice nurses.
- At MinuteClinic, and similar walk-in clinics operated by hospitals and nonprofit agencies, the nurses work under very detailed protocols with collaborative physicians about what drugs can be prescribed for patients showing specific symptoms.
- Both of the measures under consideration in the General Assembly still require nurses to work under some form of physician supervision -- a protocol arrangement, a doctor on site or available by phone -- before they would be allowed to sign a prescription form.
It makes sense to formalize an arrangement that is already working in 49 other states and has started to work in Georgia as well, says the AJC.
Source: Editorial, "Extend prescription privileges," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 30, 2006.
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