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      New bill could expand role of nurses to meet health care needs

      Changes in health care laws have increased the need for doctors and the role of the nurse has also been expanded to help fill in the gaps, but a new bill could help expand that role even further.

      The Michigan Senate approved legislation for Senate Bill 2 in November and if passed into law it could allow certain nurses with extra training to work independently of a physician.

      "Senate Bill 2 looks at allowing nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses to function and practice to the extent of their licensure, their education, and their credentials," said Michelle Witkop, DNP, FNP-BC, Doctor of Nursing Practice.

      Under the bill, certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists would be able to diagnose, treat, and prescribe drugs to patients without physician supervision.

      "To say that a nurse practitioner is going to take the place of a physician, that's not true and that's not what this bill is looking to do," said Witkop. "What this bill is looking to do is to decrease the barriers that patients have in accessing quality care."

      But some people argue that the bill is dangerous, and that it could lead to a misdiagnosis or improper treatment for patients.

      "You know what you know and you know what you don't know," said Witkop. "And when you don't know something you go to a provider who knows that information."

      Family Physician, Doctor Mike Carroll says he would rather work in a team, and that he feels that the communication would not be as great if physicians and APRN's worked separately.

      "I think that it's great to have someone to bounce these cases off of and I don't think that it's going to happen if people have independent prescribing privileges because I think there can be a tendency to have little kind of islands of care, rather than a collaborative approach," said Carroll."

      Carroll also feels that APRN's are not as qualified to make the same decisions on their own about patient care, like physicians are.

      "I do this all day everyday," said Carroll. "I've been doing it for 20 years and I went to school for 8 years before that learning about it. There's no way that someone who hasn't done that, has the same amount of experience that I have."

      "This is going to be important from a transparency stand point, that nurse practitioners are covered under insurance, that it is an option for patients, and that they understand that they can make that choice," said Witkop.

      According to the state, Michigan is one of 21 states that does not recognize advanced practice registered nurses.

      Senate Bill 2 has been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.