The Department of Veterans Affairs has granted more than 736,000 veterans living in North Carolina direct access to nurse practitioners, Forbes reported on Tuesday. The agreement is being called a “win-win” for both organizations. The VA has been criticized for long wait times that, at times, can force veterans to go weeks or even months without receiving treatment. The VA has also failed to provide basic medical treatment for many veterans. The number of nurse practitioners has doubled in the last 10 years, with over 200,000 now residing in the U.S. that are actively looking to expand their care network.
There are more than 4,800 nurse practitioners working for the VA system at this time, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Their duties focus on prescribing medication, providing clinical assessments, ordering and evaluating diagnostic tests, and initiating and managing treatment plans.
However, there are more than 21.5 million veterans nationwide. Nearly 10 percent of the population of North Carolina is made up of veterans, creating a shortage of care. Dr. Cindy Cooke, President of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, praised the VA’s decision to allow veterans direct access. She stated:
“This final rule is a critical step for America’s veterans to be able to obtain timely, high-quality care in the Veterans Health System, We are pleased the VA will move forward with allowing veterans throughout the country to have direct access to nurse practitioner provided health care.”
The measure is being opposed by the American Medical Association (AMA) who claim that allowing direct access to nurse practitioners is an outdated care model. President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Andrew Gurman, stated:
“We are disappointed by the VA’s decision today to allow most advanced practice nurses within the VA to practice independently of a physician’s clinical oversight, regardless of individual state law, This part of the VA’s final rule will rewind the clock to an outdated model of care delivery that is not consistent with the current direction of the healthcare system. Providing coordinated, physician-led, patient-centered, team-based patient care is the best approach to improving quality care for our country’s veterans, especially given the highly-complex medical care that veterans often require.”
The AMA successfully prevented the registered nurse anesthetists from being included in the the changes to direct access care.