Legislation that would Give West Virginia Nurse Practitioners Full Practice Authority Heads to the House Floor

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Reviewed by Abbie Jacobs, RN, BSN

While the impetus to grant full practice authority to nurse practitioners has been gaining ground throughout the country, some legislators in West Virginia sought to limit the scope of practice for NPs in a recent House bill.

H.B. 4334 proposes to make significant changes to the scope of practice for nurse practitioners in West Virginia. This legislation would allow APRNs to practice within the scope of their training without requiring the direct supervision of a physician. The bill would also allow APRNs to prescribe drugs once they have met certain requirements.

Opposition to this bill centered around the proposed ability to prescribe Schedule II narcotics. Some of the House members feared that giving this authority to nurse practitioners would worsen the serious problem of narcotics addiction in West Virginia.

Thus, legislators proposed a series of five amendments to the bill. These amendments involved restricting the ability to prescribe Schedule II narcotics and increasing the number of years in a collaborative partnership with a physician from the current 2 years to 5 years. In addition, some legislators wanted to move the collaborative practice requirements to the boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine from the board of nursing.

The House Health Committee requested that Beth Baldwin—the president of the WV Nurses Association—appear before them to answer questions. She testified that 860 of the approximately 2000 APRNs in West Virginia would meet the requirements to be able to prescribe drugs and that 70% of them would have a DEA license to prescribe Schedule II drugs.

The bill passed without amendment and will be sent to the House floor. If it passes there, the legislation will move to the Senate. In addition to improving access to primary care in West Virginia, some view this legislation as a job bill that would help keep nurse practitioners from moving to other states which grant full practice authority.