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October 20, 2017

10/2/2017 1:55:00 PM
New law will help nurses help region
APRNs can now provide "stand-alone" health care and advice to patients.
A new law allowing advanced practice registered nurses to provide more care to patients is a win for Crawford County and Illinois, according to Crawford Memorial Hospital's chief executive officer.

CMH CEO Doug Florkowski was among those praising a bill signed into law last week that aims to improve access to quality healthcare across the state, especially in under-served rural areas.

House Bill 313 will increase access to qualified health professionals by allowing APRNs the authority to provide stand-alone health care services and advice to patients. Services will include writing prescriptions. The legislation requires APRNs to complete 250 hours of continuing education or training and 4,000 hours of clinical experience. Clinical hours must be in the APRN's area of certification and attested to by a physician.

"Advanced Practice Registered Nurses are highly trained, highly skilled professionals that provide excellent patient care," Florkowski said.

"Physician shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing health systems today. To put it plainly, there are not enough providers for the number of patients that seek care," he explained. "This new law allows health care providers to proactively address patient access issues with competent and qualified APRNs."

The bill, co-sponsored by State Sen. Kyle McCarter. was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"The legislation is a big win for our region of the state," said McCarter, R-Lebanon. "As the Baby Boomers get older we are witnessing a growing population of seniors who need access to quality healthcare. Illinois is showing true leadership on the healthcare issue, while the debate over healthcare access and cost issues in Washington seem to be going nowhere.

"This will empower nurses to administer the services that they are fully equipped and educated to perform," Rauner said. "I'm happy that Illinoisans across the state will be able to rely more on highly qualified and skilled nurses to deliver care when access to a physician may be inhibited due to costs or geographic barriers."

"APRNs are ideal candidates to fill the need for qualified healthcare professionals to address chronic disease prevention," McCarter added.

"In downstate Illinois, we have fewer and fewer doctors, which means people have to drive farther to seek healthcare," he said. "The bottom line is the new law will expand the number of medical personnel to meet the increasing demand for health services, and at the same time, maintain quality, safe and cost-effective healthcare."

After the successful completion and notarized attestation of 250 hours of continuing education or training and at least 4,000 hours of clinical experience working with a physician or in a hospital, APRNs will qualify for full practice authority.

For example, APRNs will now have ability to prescribe certain controlled medications. The expansion of nursing practice authority aligns Illinois with the policies of 25 other states.

Furthermore, the overall modernization of this law will increase regulatory efficiency and decrease licensing processing times.

"These men and women have completed extensive training and are already performing lifesaving services for Illinoisans," State Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, said. "It is only fair that they should be granted full authority over their practice."

"Extending full practice authority to advanced practice nurses is a commonsense approach to address the growing shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas," State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said.

"This legislation includes safeguards to protect patients and ensures that advanced practice nurses have extensive clinical experience before they are given full practice authority," she added. "With this new law, Illinois joins over 20 states that have already granted full practice authority to advanced practice nurses."

HB 313 is also expected to increase access to quality healthcare in densely populated urban locations, which has similar access issues. The measure received unanimous bipartisan support during the spring legislative session. It also received wide support from the healthcare community and nursing associations.

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