Dreaming of opening your own clinic? Or, perhaps you are tired of handing the red tape associated with practicing as a nurse practitioner? Laws regulating NP practice vary significantly between states and can affect what your job looks like on a day to day basis. For example, some states require NPs to work within a certain radius of an overseeing physician and others regulate nurse practitioner’s prescribing abilities. One state’s laws may permit you to open your own clinic with ease while another’s could have you jumping through hoops.
Regardless of your reasons for seeking independence in your practice, living in a nurse practitioner friendly state can certainly give you more room to grow in your NP career. Which states fare best when it comes to nurse practitioner scope of practice laws?
1. Washington State
Residents of Washington State have an overall liberal mindset. You can’t visit Seattle, after all, without seeing a some blue hair and a few wannabe rockers pining away for the 90’s. This independent mindset extends to nurse practitioners practicing in the state. Physician involvement is not required in practice or prescribing for NPs living in Washington State. Furthermore, Washington was the first state, and remains one of the few in the nation, that currently allows nurse practitioners to prescribe medical marijuana.
2. New Mexico
New Mexico’s Governor, Susana Martinez, is a big fan of nurse practitioners so the state has scope of practice laws to match. NPs practicing in New Mexico may practice and prescribe independently of physician oversight. Not only are New Mexico’s laws regulating nurse practitioners among the most favorable in the nation, the state is actively recruiting NPs to its ranks. Recently, New Mexico implemented an ad campaign in neighboring Texas encouraging nurse practitioners to relocate to neighboring New Mexico where scope of practice laws are more favorable. As an added bonus, New Mexico also offers NPs practicing in rural areas a $3,000 tax credit.
Oregon has long recognized the value of nurse practitioners to healthcare. For example, the state began allowing NPs to prescribe controlled substances as early as 1979. Nurse practitioners working in Oregon may both practice and prescribe without physician oversight. Aspiring NPs should note that in Oregon, new nurse practitioners are required to have at least 384 hours of registered nursing experience outside of the academic setting in order to obtain a nurse practitioner license, a requirement not held by most other states.
Like Oregon, Alaska has a rich history of supporting nurse practitioners. Alaska began adapting scope of practice laws granting NPs more freedom as early as the 1980’s and hasn’t looked back since. Physician involvement in diagnosing, treating, and prescribing for patients is not required for nurse practitioners practicing in Alaska. Furthermore, new NPs may begin practicing immediately upon graduation, even while certification exam results are pending. This allows for a smooth transition from education to practice.
5. New Hampshire
“Live free or die”, New Hampshire’s state motto rings true for nurse practitioners practicing in the state. Like all other states on our list, New Hampshire does not require physician supervision or collaboration in practice or prescribing when it comes to NPs. The state also has a provision for newly graduated nurse practitioners allowing a temporary license to practice before sitting for the national certification exam. This gives new nurse practitioners a seamless transition from education to practice.
Arizona completes our list of most nurse practitioner friendly states. Nurse practitioners working in Arizona enjoy the freedom to practice and prescribe independently. Within this freedom, however, state law specifies that NPs must practice only within their area of certification, they should not “exceed the limits” of their advanced practice specialty.
Overall, west is best when it comes to nurse practitioner scope of practice regulations. Five of the top six most favorable states for NP practice lie in the western half of the country. While these states stand out above others when it comes to offering nurse practitioners freedom in their practice, more and more states are jumping on the NP independence bandwagon. Soon, we could see all 50 states mirroring the practice and prescribing laws of the nation’s most nurse practitioner friendly locales.