Senate bill would offer better rural health care

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LANSING, Mich. — New legislation to define the scope of practice for specially trained nurses has moved forward after careful consideration was given to the experience and input of both nurses and physicians. The bill recently passed out of the Senate Health Policy Committee.

Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey, would allow “advanced practice registered nurses” (APRNs) to continue to play an important role in the state’s health care system by giving them greater ability to provide the best type of patient care, particularly in rural areas where patients often have limited options when choosing providers.

“We are pleased the bill has moved forward out of committee and anticipate enthusiastic support as it comes to the floor, knowing this piece of legislation was crafted with both patient safety and optimum access to care in mind,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Allowing qualified APRNs to practice to the full extent of their training will increase the level of care that patients receive.”

SB 68 would ensure patient safety by requiring APRNs to participate collaboratively with health care professionals in a Patient Care Team. The Patient Care Team would provide the structure for an APRN to engage in meaningful consultation with other health care providers.

The bill is also intended to improve access to care, especially for people in rural areas. Current language in the bill would let APRNs continue to provide lawful access to care in coordination with the Patient Care Team.

The legislation would create a way of incentivizing APRNs to serve in regions with unusually low access to health care, typically rural areas, by allocating part of the APRN licensing fee to the Nurse Fund. The Nurse Fund would be tasked with encouraging nurses to work in Health Resource Shortage Areas when needed.

The changes were established with input and suggestions from nurses, physicians, and other interested stakeholders.

SB 68 has been sent to the Senate floor for a vote.