Nurse Practitioners Can Ease Healthcare Crisis in Pennsylvania

One hundred years ago, the average life expectancy in America was somewhere around 50 years old. Today, that average is just under 80 years of age. There are certainly a number of reasons from that dramatic increase, but certainly topping that list is the quality of the health care available.

We can cure diseases that were once a death sentence. Trauma centers routinely treat wounds that were mortal injuries in the past. Education programs and medications now help people with chronic illnesses lead almost normal lives.

But even with all those advancements, Pennsylvania is facing a healthcare crisis with an increasing shortage of family practice doctors. These physicians serve a vital role as the gatekeepers to the system. They diagnose and treat many health problems and direct patients to specialists for more complex treatments.

Unfortunately, many medical school graduates are opting for specialized fields of medicine, positions that are more lucrative and less constrained by insurance coverage mandates and other daily obstacles that are part of the 21st Century healthcare system.

As older doctors, especially in rural areas retire, fewer new family practice physicians are opening up shop to replace them. This means that many patients have to drive 30 minutes or more just to find one doctor who will accept new patients.

The Senate took a major step to improve access to quality healthcare services by approving a bill I co-sponsored that would give full practice authority to Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

Senate Bill 25 amends the Professional Nursing Law to permit qualified APRNs to practice in their field independent of a physician after they fulfill a three-year, 3,600-hour collaboration agreement with a doctor. Current law requires nurse practitioners to practice under a collaboration agreement at all times.

Several statewide and national advocacy organizations support full practice authority for nurse practitioners, including the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the National Academy of Medicine, AARP and the National Governors’ Association. Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. have already adopted full practice authority for APRNs.

SB 25 is currently before the House Professional Licensure Committee for consideration and I hope this measure will be sent to the Governor’s desk before the end of the current legislative session in November. Without action by lawmakers, patients may reach a point in the foreseeable future when they are forced to travel an hour or more just to see a doctor – if they can find proper care at all.

In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website,, and my Facebook page,, to keep up to date with state government news – including the state budget — and learn more about state services and agencies.

Contact:          Matt Azeles       

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