by Autumn Evans
A new law could open the door for new independent medical practices throughout the state.
The Nurse Practitioners Modernization Act, passed last April and in effect as of Jan. 1, removes some of the barriers experienced nurse practitioners face when trying to operate their own practices.
"This is a big deal in the state of New York for a lot of people," said Veronica Mason, a nurse practitioner since 1999 who fought for the law for years.
She opened her own practice, Mason Nurse Practitioner in Family Medicine, on Sawyer Drive in 2009. Now, this law could be the deciding factor for other NPs who want to do the same, she said.
The modernization act allows NPs with more than 3,600 hours of experience - about two years of full-time work - to work without a written practice agreement with a supervising physician. Under the agreement, a physician will regularly review a certain number of patient charts from an NP's practice. Furthermore, if there is a disagreement between a physician and NP, the physician takes priority.
"Now, nurse practitioners can start their own practice without having to chase a physician down, saying 'Please be my collaborator ... so I can practice,' " Mason said. "You don't need to have that over-shadow of a physician saying 'You're doing this, you're doing that.' "
Virginia Valenti, co-owner of Hamburg Primary Care, which opened in 2013, admitted it can sometimes be difficult for NPs to find a willing collaborator. However, she said her practice has a good relationship with its collaborator, and having a collaborating physician can be worthwhile.
"The shortage of physicians is going to work well for nurse practitioners, because we can start to open up our own practices without needing a collaborator," she said. "But at the same time, it's still wonderful to have a collaborator that you can bounce ideas off of and work together with."
Valenti agreed the law was a step forward, but warned there were still obstacles in place. Namely, many insurance companies will not cover visits to NPs at the same rate they cover visits to physicians, even if the care received is the same.
"We have the law passed," Valenti said. "Now what we need is to get the insurance companies on board."