Nurse practitioners back bill for more access to write drug prescriptions

Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 at 12:56 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - "A delay in healthcare" is how some nurse practitioners describe state laws preventing them from signing for certain prescriptions.

They say state law hinders their services to patients in the low-cost clinics where they work when an NP must seek a supervising physician's sign-off in order to prescribe patients things like controlled drugs, a walker, diabetic shoes, and hospice care.

Nurse practitioners, like the University of South Carolina College of Nursing's Stephanie Burgess, are backing Senate bill S. 345 that could change that.

NPs at the University of South Carolina Children and Family Healthcare Practice say their hands are regularly tied when they have to wait for a doctor's signature on things like controlled drugs like Adderall, pain medications for afflictions like kidney stones, and even things like handicap placards.

Those at the clinic service patients from newborns to the elderly, for a range of things from physicals to diabetic treatments, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and the list goes on. NPs say the clinic keeps people out of the emergency room and saves patients and the state money.

Staff members are concerned over the delays they say can happen when an NP has to wait on a doctor to sign on prescriptions. Delays can range from days to weeks. They say patients notice. Some clinics have even closed when a supervising doctor moves away or retires.

"They realize it when our practice closes, such as mine in Kershaw, or we can't hire an additional nurse practitioner like we want to at my practice here in Columbia which is predominantly Medicaid. We see 64 percent Medicaid," Stephanie Burgess, PhD, APRN, says.

The Senate bill they support, sponsored by Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) is set for a committee hearing at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The bill would allow nurse practitioners things like the license to sign for some prescriptions they currently cannot.

There are doctors against the bill. The South Carolina Medical Association is against the bill, saying NPs need the supervision built into the process of having doctors sign for prescriptions.

NPs at the USC clinic say there should be more restrictions on those nurse practitioners who have recently graduated, but still believe the experienced should have the ability to sign for more prescriptions.

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