SACRAMENTO–Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 890 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), a law that will allow nurse practitioners full practice authority through a transition-to-practice process, joining more than two dozen other states, Washington, DC, and the Veterans Administration that provide pathways to allow nurse practitioners to practice independently.
“For the past decade there have been multiple attempts in the Legislature to make this change,” said Wood. “During that time, it became obvious to me that we have a serious shortage of primary care physicians, so I dove into the issue – the need, the research and what other states have done – in order to come up with an appropriate process that can improve access to quality health care especially in rural and underserved areas. That’s what’s in this legislation and it’s the most stringent of all the other states.”
Studies have revealed for some time that there is a shortage and continuing decline of primary care physicians in the state. A majority of physicians practice a specialty where incomes are usually higher.
“A significant percentage of physicians are over retirement age and new physicians are not keeping up with the need,” said Wood. “Of course we can increase funding for medical residencies and loan repayment programs, and I have always supported those, but the reality is it’s not only an expensive solution but the number of residency programs will never be enough to meet the current and future need in California.”
Many people already receive their initial medical visit with a nurse practitioner and an independent analyses of peer-reviewed research, as reflected in “Quality of Primary Care by Advanced Practice Nurses: A Systematic Review,” have concluded that nurse practitioners provide care of comparable quality as physicians, even when practicing without physician oversight.
“California has been successful expanding health care coverage to many more people – and that’s absolutely what we should be doing – yet we are faced with not having enough providers to care for them,” said Wood.
In February 2019, the California Future Health Workforce Commission, of which Wood was a member, released its final report with a plan to address the state’s shortages of primary care and behavioral health providers. One of the Commission’s top 10 recommendations was to maximize the role of nurse practitioners and to expand their practice authority. More than 80 organizations supported AB 890, including individual physicians.
“California has always been a policy leader, and the fact that we are lagging behind a majority of states is truly a detriment to our fellow Californians,” said Wood. “I look forward to California returning to lead the nation in providing accessible, quality health care.”
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