Nurses Hope To Treat Patients Without Doctor Present

Franque Thompson

OMAHA (KPTM)- Going to a doctor's office and being treated by a nurse could be in the near future. A bill was introduced to the Nebraska Legislature that would allow nurse practitioners to treat patients without a doctor present. The bill would give nurse practitioners the option to treat patients at a clinic or travel to a rural area where care is needed.

DaVannis Donaldson takes her two children to a doctor's office for regular checkups. Donaldson said both a nurse practitioner and a doctor have treated her kids.

"I don't prefer one over the other. I wish they both could come in when I have the visits," she said.

The Nebraska School Nurses Association hopes hope to take on more doctor visits independently. If the bill becomes a law, nurse practitioners could treat patients dealing with colds, asthma and sprains. Anything more severe would be referred to a doctor.

"Nurses are there 24/7. They know what's going on, they know the status of the patient. And I think to give them responsibilities within their realm of education , within their realm of training is vital," said Chelsea Kropp, a student studying to become an OB-GYN.

However, not everyone approves of the bill or the idea.

"Allowing somebody to practice medicine independently, in the middle of nowhere or even in a city setting, where they don't have a collaborative relationship puts patients at risk," said Dr. Gina DiRenzo-Coffey, M.D.

Nurse practitioners are required to finish up to 800 hours of clinical training. Doctors are required to finish about 16,000 hours. Dr. DiRenzo-Coffey said she doesn't doubt the amount of training nurse practitioners have, but believes they do need a doctor's supervision.

"Having someone with the knowledge of medications, the knowledge of the side effects, monitoring further risks is very important," Dr. DiRenzo-Coffey.

Donaldson said she will work with both to keep her children healthy, but if it came down to something serious she says she does prefers a doctor's care.

"I've seen Dr. Coffey more and I like that because sometimes you want to see the doctor and not always the nurse practitioner," said Donaldson.

17 states and Washington D.C. allow nurse practitioners to treat patients without a physician agreement. Iowa is included in that 17. The Nebraska Nurse Practitioners group worries the state will lose nurses because they would move to Iowa where they can treat patients independently.

The bill is still being considered at this time.