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Texas Tribune Panel Focuses on Rural Healthcare, Role of NPs

This week, nurse practitioners were front and center of the Texas Tribune's live panel in Canyon, Texas: "A Conversation on Rural Healthcare. Panelists included Holly Jeffreys, a nurse practitioner and founder of three rural clinics in the Texas Panhandle; State Representative Ken King from Canadian; Dr. Mike Henderson, a family medicine doctor from Childress; and Billy Philips, executive vice president for rural and community health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

The headline of the day: Texas’ rural health care crisis has reached a fever pitch, and everyone needs to come together around common-sense solutions that put Texas patients first – turf wars aside.

From how to address rural hospital closures and the lack of access to obstetrical care, to the growing shortage of healthcare providers in rural areas, the panelists discussed a number of pressing issues facing rural Texas.

“I believe that nurse practitioners and physician assistants are probably the key to access to rural healthcare,” said Dr. Mike Henderson. “We’ve got to use these providers and we have to work together if we’re going to survive.”

“A few years ago we were 47th in the country for access to care and affordability, and now we’re 51st,” said Jeffreys. “So the urgency is definitely there to do something about this,” she continued,

One of the solutions at Texas’s disposal – removing the requirement for nurse practitioners to sign a contract with a physician in order to practice – a policy already adopted by the U.S. Veteran’s Administration, 22 states, and the District of Columbia.

“The research shows that full practice authority, in every state and region where it’s been implemented, has increased access to care, improved quality, and reduced costs,” Jeffreys added.

During the Q & A Session following the panel, one attendee asked about the impact of the recent White House Executive order, Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors, which makes recommendations to allow nurse practitioners and other providers to work to the full extent of their licensure.

“Governor Abbott just sent a letter to state agencies asking them to look at regulatory barriers not just for nurse practitioners, but for all of occupational licensing, said Jeffreys.” We’re losing providers to states like New Mexico because of these restrictions, and I’m hopeful the state is moving in the right direction.”

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