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A new era for Minnesota's nurse practitioners

When envisioning the medical care hierarchy, it's imperative not to think solely in terms of physicians and nurses. Indeed, there are many other skilled professionals within this structure that play an absolutely vital role in patient care, particularly nurse practitioners.  

For those unfamiliar with the role played by nurse practitioners, they are highly trained nurses who have the ability to diagnose illnesses and supply the necessary care, as well as the authority to write prescriptions. These capabilities, in turn, have made them de facto primary care providers for many patients for many years. 

Interestingly, despite having the necessary credentials and capabilities, Minnesota law long stated that nurse practitioners could not practice absent a written agreement with a physician.

As you might imagine, this created difficulties as some nurse practitioners found themselves with limited options concerning when and where they could work given that physicians might be unwilling or unavailable to sign such agreements.

All of this changed on January 1, however, when a new state law took effect that effectively abolished this old system and ushered in a new era of independent practice for nurse practitioners.

This new law states that nurse practitioners are no longer subject to physician oversight upon completion of 2080 supervised work hours.

The spirit of this newfound autonomy is perhaps best embodied by the University of Minnesota School of Nursing's new nurse practitioner clinic, which is scheduled to open next week. This first-of-its-kind institution, say officials, will help ensure that a larger population is able to secure medical care and help address the shortage of primary care providers.

It will be fascinating to see what the future holds for Minnesota's nurse practitioners. Of course, given this promise, it's all the more imperative that those who find themselves under investigation by state officials strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

Source: MPR News, "First clinic run by nurses to open in Minneapolis," Lorna Benson, March 24, 2015

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