NURSES WIN KEY COMMITTEE VOTEFirst, the facts
In a stunning victory for Nurse Practitioners SB 491 (Hernandez) cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 4 to zero vote (DeLeon, Hill, Lara, and Steinberg). There were
no votes against the bill (Walters, Gaines, and Padilla were not recorded to have voted). No matter, the measure needed only the 4 votes it got.
The California Medical Association, opposed to the bill, said in its Hot List that "this bill gives nurse practitioners independent practice" because "nurse practitioners will no longer need to work pursuant to standardized protocols and procedures or any supervising physician and would basically give them a plenary license to practice medicine."
One of the arguments by Senator Hernandez that proved particularly attractive to proponents was his assertion that allowing Nurse Practitioners to practice medicine "can reduce the cost of medical care by allowing lower-cost workers to do more routine tasks in place of higher-paid MDs." In this blog, we have already asserted why this fanciful concept may well prove to be illusory. The nurses are well organized and have a strong union. In the opinion of this author the nurses' unions would be asleep at the switch were they to stand idly by while their colleagues got paid less than physicians for doing the same work.
Milton Lorig, MD, Union of American Physicians and Dentists, wrote in the Sacramento Bee that "physicians like myself have undergone far more rigorous training" and that he doubted that a mid-level practitioner "would have made the diagnosis of NMDA-Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis" that he recently treated. Lorig argued that "patients deserve ready access to providers who are adequately trained." He did not, however, persuade DeLeon, Hill, Lara, or Steinberg -- just one would have been sufficient to save the day for optimal care.
Author's amendments may still be introduced, for instance, a provision to delete the authority for nurse practitioners to make diagnoses of patients and to perform procedures. Allowing expanded use of skilled nurses should not be done by lowering practice standards that physicians, nurses, and scientists have worked centuries to develop.