Legal Spotlight: Model Act for Nurse Practitioners

Confused about the differences between laws governing nurse practitioners in each state?  Me too.  Currently, each state governs a nurse practitioner's ability to practice and prescribe differently.  For example, in some states you don't even have to take a national certification exam in order to practice as a nurse practitioner while in most states passing a national exam is required.  The Model Act hopes to change this (too bad for NP's living in these 5 states!).

Let's take a quick look at how the Model Act proposes to make positive changes for NP's across the country.

What is the Model Act?

The Model Act is legislation proposed to define the education and role of the nurse practitioner.  With the Model Act, nursing leaders hope to standardize the definition of a nurse practitioner and the level of education and certification required to practice.  The goal of this legislation is to eliminate varying laws between states.

For example, under current law were I to practice in my home state, the State of Washington (known for having the loosest regulations surrounding NP practice), I would be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana and officially sign death certificates.  Here in Tennessee where I live, not so lucky.  In the stricter state where I reside I cannot declare someone dead or prescribe marijuana to my patients.  Although I am perfectly fine, and in fact prefer, to do neither of these in my practice it would be beneficial to obtain some consistency surrounding nurse practitioner legislation.

Why Do We Need the Model Act?

Nurse practitioners are mobile.  Life may cause us to relocate to a different state.  Perhaps we work in a locums or travel position calling us to practice in multiple states.  Currently, each state requires different levels of certification for NP's.  If you live in a state where a national certification is not required, you would need to take a certification exam if moving to a different state.  This might prove difficult if you have been out of school for a few years.

Prescribing laws also differ by state.  Some states allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled medications, others do not.  Many states may not allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medications without physician oversight.  It is confusing for employers and NP's to keep up with these varying regulations. 

With the model act, nurse practitioner laws and regulations would be standardized.  Eliminating differences in laws between states would make it much easier for NP's to move from state to state and maintain their same level of practice.  The same level of education and certification would be required nationwide under the Model Act ending much of the confusion surrounding the certification and licensure process.  Companies employing nurse practitioners in multiple states would be able to implement more standardized processes surrounding NP practice.

How Will the Model Act Affect Me as a Nurse Practitioner?

With the Model Act, nurse practitioner education will become standardized.  In order to become certified, all NP's must complete specific core courses, obtain at least 500 clinical hours and take a national certification exam.  Under the Model Act, nurse practitioners will have the ability to practice and prescribe independently without physician supervision. 

The Model Act will make your life as a nurse practitioner easier.  You won't have to worry about losing privileges when moving between states.  If you live in a state that currently does not allow independent practice for NP's or limits your ability to prescribe, the Model Act will increase your privileges. 

What if you live in a state that currently does not require a certification exam or has minimal licensing requirements?  Not to worry.  No one's NP license will be taken away!  If you are currently a nurse practitioner, you will be grandfathered into certification regardless of if you meet the Model Act's minimal requirements.

The Model Act must be adopted by each state individually. Overall, it promises to increase nurse practitioner's abilities across the country and increase ease of practice for NP's.  Encourage your state's board of nursing to adopt the Model Act!