The turf wars continue as nurses, especially advanced practice nurses, occupy more and more of what used to be physician-only territory.
A recent incident in my state, Pennsylvania, highlights the rivalry. Nurses at all practice levels have been lobbying for the state nursing board to have exclusive control over nurse practitioner practice, which is now jointly regulated by the boards of nursing and medicine. As the state senate's rules committee reviewed a bill to grant the nursing board sole regulatory authority, one legislator planned an amendment to add physicians to the board.
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Physicians on the nursing board? Sure, medicine and nursing are closely connected, but physicians aren't experts in nursing. Few states have physicians on the nursing board. Adding them in Pennsylvania would be a step backward and a bad precedent that could have far-reaching consequences for all nurses in our state. Physicians could end up overseeing nurses and even changing our nurse practice act.
Outraged at the prospects, I wrote to one of my state legislators while nurses across the state bombarded their legislators with similar messages. We convinced the senator proposing the amendment that her change was wrong for nursing, and she backed off.
For nurses to progress as individuals and protect advances in our profession, we must stay informed. Do your part by joining specialty, state, or national nursing organizations; reading up on health care issues; and signing on to E-mail newsgroups. Know who's on your state board of nursing. Monitor how local and national lawmakers are influencing health care and your practice. Learn whether advanced practice nurses in your state are really advancing.
But don't stop there. Voice your concerns to lawmakers and other influential people in a letter, a phone call, or an E-mail message. Back up your argument with facts.
Speaking with one voice, nurses can mount a powerful grassroots campaign. Let's continue gaining ground as independent professionals. What worked in Pennsylvania can work for you.
Get in touch with nursing organizations
Go to http://www.nursing2002.com (click Resources and Surveys), where you can connect to a list of over 80 nursing organizations to stay abreast of issues affecting your practice. Included is the Web site for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, where you'll find links to each state's board.
Cheryl L. Mee