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New Mexico governor wants to recruit Oklahoma's nurse practitioners

New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez seeks to recruit Oklahoma's nurse practitioners. Unlike Oklahoma, New Mexico allows nurse practitioners to practice with “full authority,” not requiring them to have a physician sign off on care in order for them to have prescriptive authority.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: December 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: December 1, 2013

Gov. Mary Fallin might want to take note of the marketing campaign New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez hopes to launch.

Martinez wants to market New Mexico beyond its ski vacations, hot air balloons, beautiful desert sunsets and art museums.

Simply put, Martinez wants Oklahoma's nurse practitioners.

Unlike Oklahoma, New Mexico allows nurse practitioners to practice with “full authority,” not requiring them to have a physician sign off on care in order for them to have prescriptive authority.

Martinez specifically mentioned Oklahoma in her recent announcement of the campaign, adding that she hopes to further reform her state's laws to remove any barriers that nurse practitioners moving to New Mexico might face when opening their practices.

“The full implementation of (New Mexico's Medicaid program), coupled with Medicaid expansion, will further increase the demand for highly trained and qualified health care professionals in New Mexico,” Martinez said in a news release. “By streamlining the requirements for nurses seeking to bring their talents and skills to New Mexico, we can further ensure that more New Mexicans, especially in rural and underserved areas, will have access to the high quality of health care our families and communities deserve.”

Time to move?

Moving to a state like New Mexico was, at least for a moment, in the back of nurse practitioner Damarcus Nelson's mind.

Nelson graduated about two years ago and was thinking about where he wanted to practice medicine. But he had family in Oklahoma and a wife, pregnant with twins. Moving wasn't an option at the time.

“I feel like if we stay here, we can push the envelope better to get independent practice here, as opposed to trying to run to another state,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who has a doctor of nursing practice degree, works near Yukon with Toni Pratt-Reid, the first nurse practitioner in Oklahoma to open a private practice more than 10 years ago.

Under Oklahoma law, a nurse practitioner cannot practice medicine unless he or she has a physician willing to supervise him or her for that prescriptive authority. However, the law doesn't require physician supervisors to review patient charts or even practice in the same building.

At Pratt-Reid's office, there is not a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine who works in the office with them.

“We wouldn't practice any differently if we had full autonomy,” Pratt-Reid said. “Nothing that we did here would be different, other than we wouldn't have to jump through extra hoops to get the same amount of care ... . The sooner we get to where New Mexico is, the better.”

Many states open to practice

Oklahoma is one of about 12 states that requires a nurse practitioner to have a team leader or management from an outside health discipline — such as supervision from a medical doctor — in order for that nurse practitioner to provide care, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

About 15 states — some that require stringent restrictions and some that simply curtail one element — have bills in 2014 that would reduce restrictions, according to the group.

No bill has been discussed or announced in Oklahoma.

New Mexico and Oklahoma face similar problems, with large shortages of medical professionals across both states.

Thirty-two of New Mexico's 33 counties are designated by the federal government as Health Profession Shortage Areas, according to the governor's office.

Only four of 77 counties in Oklahoma are not designated as Health Profession Shortage Areas, according to the state Health Department.

Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, has focused many of his efforts at the Capitol on Oklahoma's doctor shortage.

Cox, a medical doctor for more than 30 years, said medical “extenders” — nurse practitioners or physician assistants who extend the care medical doctors provide — are a necessary part of the health care system.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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