Advanced practice nurses the future of care in NM - Albuquerque Journal

Advanced practice nurses the future of care in NM

New Mexico’s rural and geographically remote communities have the most significant shortage of health professionals in the United States. New Mexico is the fifth-largest state in the union, and the total number of physicians per 1,000 of population is only 1.69, compared to the national average of 2.42 physicians per 1,000 of population.

The solution to New Mexico’s health care dilemma is the state’s growing number of advanced practice registered nurses. Advanced practice registered nurses are doctorate- or masters-level registered nurses with advanced training and include certified nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives and certified nurse anesthetists. For many years, general nurses were considered “hand maidens” of hospitals and physicians and were only protected from malpractice lawsuits by the “law of agency” under the hospital or doctors’ liability insurance.

In New Mexico, certified nurse practitioners (CNPs) may practice autonomously, can diagnose illnesses, treat medical conditions and educate patients. CNPs can issue certificates of death and have independent prescriptive authority including controlled substances. CNPs can independently form their own health care corporations.

The future of medical care in New Mexico will rely heavily on advanced practice nurses to be the primary caregivers. The United States health care system is increasingly costly. The prevalence of our aging population and chronic illness in the United States continues to escalate, exacerbating the problem of adequate health care while the number of primary physicians is decreasing, because fewer medical students are choosing to be primary care physicians. Certified nurse practitioners could be the solution for the future of medical care in New Mexico.

Now, the United States, and New Mexico in particular, face a looming shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural communities. Advanced practice nurses are able to fill the needs of rural communities but will also assume the increasing threat of excessive malpractice law suits.

However, the 2021 NM Legislature passed HB 75, which includes advanced practice nurses under the Medical Malpractice Act, limits liability to $750K and includes $500K excess coverage of the Patient Compensation Fund. The protections of the N.M. Medical Malpractice Act will become available to advanced practice nurses on Jan. 1, 2022.

Coverage under the N.M. Medical Malpractice Act will make liability insurance affordable for advanced practice nurses, encouraging more general nurses to become advanced practice nurses. With the expansion, New Mexico’s future for health care will be the envy of other states.

 


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