Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill this week giving the more than 1,700 nurse practitioners in West Virginia the ability to diagnose and treat patients without physician oversight.
Nurse practitioners in West Virginia are required to work under the guidance of a physician. But in the past, advanced practice nurses couldn’t always find physicians to sign off on their work, sometimes leaving patients without care. House Bill 4334 attempts to address that problem.
Advocates of the recently passed bill said physician oversight limited the ability of nurse practitioners – who are nurses with master’s level or doctorate training - to practice to the full scope of their ability.
The hope is that the bill will also help expand access to care in rural areas and alleviate West Virginia’s provider shortage.
Nurse practitioners will still need a physician signature when prescribing opioids and other heavy duty narcotics.
The bill takes effect in June with the requirement of a legislative review of the system in two years.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.