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New Report Answers Concerns About Nurse Practitioners

Fears about quality of care are “greatly exaggerated”

Empower Mississippi has released a new report, Nurse Practitioners and the Quality of Care, which answers concerns about the quality of care provided by nurse practitioners, and more particularly about the quality of their education. These concerns arise as the legislature considers allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently.

The report looks at two indicators of the quality of training and the quality of care provided by nurse practitioners. The first is the quality of their education, including the amount of hands-on training they receive in order to become a nurse practitioner. The other indicator is whether the risk to patients is higher when nurse practitioners are allowed to practice on their own.

Among the report’s findings on the quality of education:

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires at least a master’s degree in nursing. Some programs, including at the University of Southern Mississippi, require a doctorate. This is in addition to their training to become a Registered Nurse, which is required in order to even begin nurse practitioner training. All nurse practitioners must pass the national certification exam in the specialty in which they have trained, the vast majority of which are in primary care. In order to take the national exam, nurse practitioner candidates must have completed a significant number of hours of supervised, hands-on experience as part of their training. NP programs that offer online coursework require the same amount of supervised, hands-on clinical training as is required for students who take classes in person.

To measure the risk of allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently, known as “full practice authority,” the report looked at studies that compare malpractice claims for nurse practitioners in states that allow full practice authority and in those that do not.

“The reason we chose this as an objective measure of risk is that malpractice insurance companies put their own money at risk when they insure nurse practitioners,” said Forest Thigpen, Senior Advisor at Empower Mississippi. “They have a vested interest in determining whether nurse practitioners pose a greater risk when they work with

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