Nurse Practitioners Providing Better Access to Healthcare In Rural Areas

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North Platte, Neb. If you live in a rural area in Nebraska chances are you may have to drive up to an hour away to get adequate healthcare, sometimes even further.

A legislative bill is cutting the red tape for Nurse Practitioners to be more independent and provide greater access to healthcare.

In Sutherland Herb and Sandra Meissner say it can be tough finding good healthcare because they live in a smaller community.

"Every time we go to North Platte it's a 46-mile round trip and to here it's less than a mile and a half," said Herb.

Herb says that is why they go to Family First Health Center to get their questions and needs taken care of when it comes to healthcare.

"They will sit down and visit with me to try and give me a better explanation of what might be wrong and how it might be cured," said Herb.

The center opened up in 2011 when owner Faylene Dancer saw a need to provide better access to healthcare in rural areas.

"We are able to serve our surrounding communities of Hershey, Paxton, Wallace and even other outlying areas," said Dancer.

Sometimes red tape can get in the way of Nurse practitioners providing healthcare to rural or smaller areas.

That's where Legislative Bill 107 comes into play.

The measure, introduced by State Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, and co-sponsored by Senator Mike Groene from North Platte would eliminate the requirement for nurse practitioners to have a practice agreement with a doctor.

Many Nurse Practitioners see the bill as a positive.

"That's the point is to increase access to healthcare and increase the number of healthcare providers that can go out into these communities," said Nurse Practitioner Kelley Hasenauer who owns Platte Valley Women's Healthcare in North Platte.

Hasenauer primarily serves the needs of women and recognizes there needs to be more healthcare in smaller areas which is why she supports the bill.

"It just shows our current legislature is looking to no cost ways to improve access to healthcare in rural Nebraska," said Hasenauer.

"In the small town people are more comfortable receiving healthcare in their home town which enables us to provide more preventative healthcare services," said Dancer.

Its those services patients in smaller communities say they are grateful to receive.

"Both of our children happen to be physicians and neither one of them cared to come back to a small town. They do not have the support in a small town that they gain in the larger cities," said Sandra of Sutherland.

LB107 is now sitting on Governor Rickett's desk to be signed into law.
During debate at the Legislature opposition came from members of the Nebraska Medical Association.

Physician groups have long argued against independence for Nurse Practitioners, saying the practice agreements are needed for patient safety.

They said doctors have more years of education and clinical training than Nurse Practitioners, who have Master's or Doctoral degrees in nursing.