MONTGOMERY, Alabama --- The Alabama Senate has passed a bill that would allow certified registered nurse practitioners to prescribe certain drugs, a move that the sponsor of the bill said would expand access to health care in some areas.
Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said the bill would allow the practitioners, operating under the supervision of a collaborating physician, to prescribe certain painkillers, antibiotics and other medicines that they can’t under current law.
Certified registered nurse practitioners are registered nurses who get a graduate degree in a nurse practitioner program and national certification.
Reed said patients in rural areas sometimes depend on nurse practitioners as a first option for health care because they have to drive some distance to see a physician. He said practitioners can prescribe certain medicines now. But he said the limitations on prescription-writing can be a problem.
For example, a nurse practitioner can sew up a cut for a patient, but might not be able to provide the level of painkiller the patient might need. Or, a practitioner could diagnose an infection, but might not be able to prescribe the needed antibiotic.
“It’s giving nurse practitioners the ability to increase the scope of their practice,” Reed said.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, which has passed a similar measure.
The bill would also apply to nurse midwives. It would allow practitioners and midwives to be certified to prescribe Level 3, 4 and 5 drugs, Reed said.
They could still not prescribe morphine or other drugs that are classified as Level 1 and 2, Reed said.
“The closer health care is for a patient, the more cost-effective that health care is going to be for the patient,” Reed said.
The bill passed by a vote of 27-1.