Survey Americans Support More Medical Duties for Nurse Practitioners

More than six in 10 Americans support giving nurse practitioners more leeway to provide health care services, including prescribing medicines and ordering diagnostic tests without the need for supervision by a physician.

Seven out of 10 oppose laws that prevent people from selecting nurse practitioners as their primary care providers, according to a poll commissioned by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

The poll, conducted by the Mellman Group, is intended to buttress lobbying by the AANP to convince state legislatures to allow nurses to work as primary care providers. The AANP argues that giving more responsibility to nurse practitioners is particularly important because of the shortage of primary care doctors, a scarcity likely to worsen as the Affordable Care Act ushers 32 million currently uninsured Americans into health plans.

At least 17 states now allow nurse practitioners to work without a supervising physician, and similar measures are under consideration in other states.

Most health advocates agree that allowing nurse practitioners to fill in for doctors makes sense for basic services. But doctors’ groups oppose any changes, saying nurses lack the training to safely diagnose, treat, refer to specialists, admit to hospitals and prescribe medications, without a doctor’s oversight.

The survey size was 1,000 adults. Interviews were conducted by telephone from Sept. 12-15. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percent.