formal policy making. Despite significant progress in several venues, however, this process has been stymied, in the case of APNs, by the many regulatory obstacles and restrictions that currently impede the full realization of their potential. Chief among these, as I have noted elsewhere, are “conflicting and restrictive state provisions governing [APNs’] scope of practice and prescriptive authority… as well as the fragmented and parsimonious state and federal standards for their reimbursement” (Safriet, 1992). While an extensive catalog of these restrictions appears in the section “Current Impediments in the Regulatory Environment,” the following two examples—one state-based and one federal—will perhaps capture the flavor of the problem.
In Louisiana, according to the Board of Medicine, no one other than a physician may treat chronic pain, even if the provider in question is trained as a nurse anesthetist, is competent to treat pain, and has been directed to do so by a physician.3
Medicare precludes a certified nurse specialist from certifying a patient for skilled long-term care, or from performing the physical required for admission, even though the CNS has been treating the patient on an ongoing basis.4
There are several steps that the federal government can and should take to eliminate, or at least mitigate, the wasteful effects of such needless restrictions as these. To approach the task effectively, however, decision makers must (1) understand several contextual factors specific to nursing; (2) be familiar with the extensive array of restrictions that are embedded in state and federal regulations (as well as in private organizations’ policies), and grasp their historical origins; and (3) develop a clear understanding of the impediments—ranging from inertia to resistance to active opposition—to a more rational deployment of APNs.
Any effort to design more effective and cost-efficient health care delivery models by maximizing the contributions of APNs must proceed from a basic understanding of several fundamental aspects of our current framework. Among the most important of these are the following.
The diversity of nursing practice. “Nursing writ large” encompasses a wide variety of skill levels and roles, and nursing practice routinely takes