Advertisement

California Senate votes to expand powers of nurse practitioners

California Senate votes to expand powers of nurse practitioners
Carmen Sanchez, left, watches as her 8-year-old daughter Dafne is examined by nurse practitioner Anne Traynor in a Cedars Sinai mobile clinic visiting Jordan Down housing project in Los Angeles in January. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Addressing a doctor shortage that is especially dire in rural parts of California, the state Senate voted Thursday to let nurse practitioners do much more for patients, including diagnosing and ordering treatment and prescribing drugs, without supervision by a physician.

Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said his bill will make sure that Californians have easier access to primary healthcare by giving more responsibility to nurse practitioners in certain settings, including medical clinics.

"More than 18,000 of them are in California and stand ready to help meet our healthcare needs," Hernandez told his colleagues before the 25-5 vote.

The measure is opposed by the California Medical Assn. and other physician groups that argued that nurse practioners are insufficiently qualified to practice certain functions without supervision.

Advertisement

Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said the bill created a wedge between patients and physicians.

Advertisement

"It undermines the teamwork basis of healthcare, where different individuals such as nurse practitioners work under the supervision of a physician," Nielsen said.

Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a pediatrician, said he also worried about “fragmentation of care,” which he said leads to “poor quality and missed communications.”

Pan also worried that there would not be enough oversight if nurses remained under the watch of the state Board of Registered Nurses, which he said is not set up to oversee diagnosis and treatment decisions. Pan said oversight should be provided by the California Medical Board, which regulates doctors.

Advertisement

Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta), a pharmacist, supported the bill, saying some rural areas of his district don't have enough primary care physicians for everyone who needs to get treatment. "It improves access to care," Stone said. "Certainly it will not jeopardize public safety."

The bill, SB 323, next goes to the state Assembly for consideration.

Advertisement
Advertisement