Originally created 03/01/05

Nurse practitioners hold rally

ATLANTA - About four dozen nurse practitioners and midwives marched to the Capitol through Monday's drizzle, chanting and calling for legislation that would authorize their profession to write prescriptions.

They've been making the same appeal for 11 years, only to hit roadblocks each time. So they're trying a different approach this year in an effort to prevent opposition from the Medical Association of Georgia, the well-heeled doctors' lobby.

"It's been very difficult to make any headway with MAG," said Tom Schouller, the president of the Advanced Practice Nurses Association of Georgia.

Georgia law allows the 4,500 registered nurses who have the extra training and the certification from a national nursing board to phone - but not write - prescriptions in to pharmacies as long as they follow guidelines set in advance by a supervising physician. If a patient's symptoms don't fall within the doctor's protocol, the nurse practitioner must defer to the physician.

MAG agrees that the distinction between writing and calling is illogical, said David Cook, the association's lobbyist. Where the two groups haven't agreed is the amount of independence advanced nurses should have.

"We don't believe that the physician's role in that ought to be eliminated," he said.

Mr. Schouller said the nurses will no longer aim for greater independence. Once they persuade a Republican to sponsor their bill, they'll only seek writing authority while continuing the oversight doctors currently must provide.

Their training already equips them to work in other states where they have prescriptive authority, said Lucy Marion, dean of the Nursing School at the Medical College of Georgia. While physicians must undergo more training, surveys have shown that the results and the number of drug-related lawsuits for doctors and advanced nurses is about the same, she said.

Once a bill is drafted , the lobbying and rally may pay off. But this year's legislative session is growing short, meaning that passage probably would wait until next year's session.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424 or walter.jones@morris.com.


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