Bills Would Give Some Georgia Nurses Broader Authority, Support Family Caregivers

Posted on 12/31/21 by Ann Hardie

Kay Argroves, a nurse anesthetist from Madison, holds a doctorate in nursing. In many other states, her advanced education and training would come with a license as an advanced practice registered nurse, or APRN. Not in Georgia. 

It is one of the few states that do not offer a separate license for nurses with an education at the master’s level or beyond. 

“I want to practice in a state that recognizes my skill set and education,” says Argroves, who volunteers on AARP Georgia’s Executive Council. “With the status of a separate license, we can show nurses that we appreciate the sacrifices they have made to care for patients.” 

The Georgia General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 10, is considering legislation to grant a separate license to APRNs. 

The more than 17,800 professionals statewide who would be covered under the bill are licensed as registered nurses (RNs) and practice as certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists or clinical nurse specialists, including those for psychiatric/mental health. 

AARP Georgia supports the legislation because it would give APRNs broader authority to care directly for patients and could entice more of them to practice in the state, especially in areas where there is a shortage of health care providers. 

In other states, APRNs can prescribe common medications, such as for blood pressure or diabetes, alleviating the need for people to wait for a doctor.

“We have practitioner shortages that lead to health care issues, especially in rural areas,” says Nancy Pitra, advocacy director for AARP Georgia. 

The bill also has a provision that would allow APRNs and physician assistants to order parking permits for people with disabilities. Currently, they can fill out the forms but not officially sign off on them.

CARE ACT on the Agenda

With the help of other advocacy groups, AARP Georgia also plans to push state lawmakers to pass the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, to support caregivers after their loved ones come home from the hospital. 

Georgia’s nearly 1.3 million family caregivers increasingly are expected to perform complex medical and nursing tasks that they may not feel prepared to do.

The CARE Act would require hospitals to include these caregivers in discharge planning and to instruct them on the kinds of medical care they will be providing. 

Efforts to pass similar legislation six years ago failed, but Pitra thinks the odds are better this year because of the demands that the coronavirus pandemic has put on family caregivers. 

The CARE Act has been signed into law and is either in effect or will be soon in at least 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“In other states the CARE Act has helped people remain in their homes and helped family caregivers give better care,” Pitra says. 

A recent AARP Public Policy Institute report shows that in states that have passed the CARE Act, many benefits have been identified for patients, family caregivers and the hospitals themselves. These include greater satisfaction and confidence with care transitions, reduced unnecessary re-hospitalizations and improved quality outcomes.

Ann Hardie is a writer living in Atlanta.

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