Washburn nursing program advances through change

On March 23, 2010, president Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Since then, the role of the nurse practitioner has change considerably.

“Because of this act we are seeing more changes across the nation that more nurse practitioners are going into independent practice,” said Shirley Dinkel, associate professor of nursing at Washburn University.

Since the state of Kansas doesn’t allow nurse practitioners to go into an independent practice without a collaborating physician, Dinkel said there is a new controversy over who can provide primary care.

This has caused states to modify their laws on allowing nurse practitioners to be a primary care giver. Because there is no national standard yet this means a nurse practitioner can be expected or allowed to provide primary care, like a physician but may or may not receive the salary increase as well.

“The nurse practitioner is educated in advanced assessment skills, physical exam, diagnosing, prescribing, treating, interpreting diagnoses and ordering other therapies,” said Dinkel. “So we function at a roll that is certainly above the level of the nurse, but typically not at the same level of what a physician would function, but now that’s really changing because most nurse practitioners are specializing. So there are really lots of ways you can be a nurse practitioner now.”

Dinkel said that because the issue of who is allowed to provide a patients primary care is so vital, it’s important that a person understand who is providing their care.

“Is the person taking your blood pressure really a nurse, or a medical assistant?” said Dinkel.

She went on to say that nurse practioners are currently in high demand. Dinkel also said that not all changes were negative.

“I think nurses now with the Affordable Care Act are really finding ways to create positions that were never positions before,” said Dinkel “Nurses can go anywhere now and create an opportunity to deliver healthcare. In regards to the affordable care act this means people are seeking ways to gain healthcare beyond the typical ways of getting healthcare.”

Because of the Affordable Care Act and recent regulation changes, by 2015, a nurse practitioner will need to receive a doctorate in nursing in order to practice.

This and the Affordable Care Act have required Washburn to implement new changes in curriculum. Starting fall of 2012, students can enroll as doctoral nursing students and receive their PhD.

“People think sometimes that nurses all do the same thing, but there is so much you can do with nursing whether it’s long-term care, hospital, pediatrics, geriatrics, hospice, or lots of other things,” said Afton Kissinger, first year nursing student.

Dinkel believes that Washburn has done an excellent job of keeping up with new healthcare laws and regulations.

“Nurse practitioners are highly educated and highly skilled,” said Dinkel. “And it’s clear that faculty and administration at Washburn are keeping up with changes such as the Affordable Care Act.”