Nurse practitioner's authority expanded

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky.---Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed into law a bill that aims at improving patient care by giving nurse practitioners more authority.

According to Kentucky Health News, eight counties are medically under-served. Hickman, Carlisle, Graves, Marshall, Livingston, Lyon, Caldwell, and Crittenden counties. This means these counties have too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty and/or a high elderly population. The new law could provide people in these areas with more access to healthcare.

Brice Jones had visited Jason Fiessinger's office for years.

"I like him because he knows me, he knows my family, he knows everything that I've been through," Fiessinger said.

But Jones learned something about Fiessinger.

"Some patients do call us doctors, I correct them," Fiessinger said.

As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, it had been impossible and illegal to write prescriptions without a collaborative practice agreement with a doctor.

"It's been a piece of paper. He doesn't have to come here, he doesn't have to see my patients," Fiessinger said.

With the new law, he'll be able to write prescriptions without a doctor's collaboration.
Jessica Gargus with the Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners says it took years to change the law.

"Any time you have change there's usually some opposition," Gargus said.

She said some doctors were worried about patient safety, but opposition decreased.

Now she hopes practices increase across Kentucky.

"The win today is so we can provide care in sometimes situations that physicians don't want to support," Fiessinger said.

The new law says registered nurses have to have been prescribe under a doctor's supervision for four years before they can prescribe routine medications on their own.
Gargus said while most doctors in our area do not charge a fee for collaboration, many Eastern Kentucky doctors charged a fee so costly, it was nearly impossible for nurse practitioners to survive on their own.

An 'LPN' is a Licensed Practical Nurse' with a two year degree.
They are supervised and perform basic nursing.

An 'RN' is a Registered Nurse with a two or four year degree and passed an examination for initial licensure.

A Nurse Practitioner has their master's degree, some have their doctorate.

A doctor has a doctorate degree.

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