By DALLAS M. DUCAR, MSN, PMHNP-BC, RN, CNL and KATIE WOLF, MBA
We’re not in Kansas anymore. Kansas has rescinded an executive order that dramatically empowered and expanded its healthcare workforce as COVID-19 cases soared. In the best interest of patients now and in the future, other states must not follow Kansas’ example.
The story of coronavirus is far from over in the United States and the impacts to our healthcare systems continue. America’s clinical workforce began this battle at a deficit and, in certain states, continues under those conditions. For years, studies outlined shortages of medical doctors and predicted gaps to worsen over time. Prior to the presence of COVID-19, a contentious debate emerged as to how to address the deficit of physicians. Nurse practitioners (NPs) lobbied for broader clinical autonomy to help bridge this gap. At present, rapid influxes of critically ill patients have strained our healthcare systems to a breaking point laying bare the resource constraints in our healthcare system.
Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services responded to this need by sending a letter to governors to expand the 290,000 NPs in the United States, bolstering our provider workforce during this time of crisis. Empowering NPs to independently treat patients has needlessly been a long-standing point of contention in healthcare. Increasing the breadth of NP autonomy makes sense in the face of COVID-19. Wisely, since the start of the pandemic, the number of states allowing NP autonomy jumped from 22 states to 48. This structural change to healthcare is long overdue and should remain in perpetuity. However, at the end of May, Kansas became the first state to expire this expansion of NP authority.
NPs are independently licensed and trained to diagnose and prescribe medications and treatments. This role grew organically out of the field of