Student nurses call for expanded practice on APRN Advocacy in Action day

From left: Associate Teaching Professor and DNP Program Director Laura Kuensting, Jason Parmentier, DNP student Tara Deskin, DNP student Michelle Parmentier, PhD student Cheryl Rainey, alumna Sandy Summers, Senator Dave Schatz, University of Missouri–Columbia student Ruth Ogunniyi, DNP student Carrie Plisco, DNP student Rachel Allen, PhD student Maureen Falcone, DNP student Jinnie Smith, PhD student Jodi Brown and DNP student Robert Bohnert attended Association of Missouri Nurse Practitioners 2019 APRN Advocacy in Action day. (Photos courtesy of Laura Kuensting)

From left: Associate Teaching Professor and DNP Program Director Laura Kuensting, Jason Parmentier, DNP student Tara Deskin, DNP student Michelle Parmentier, PhD student Cheryl Rainey, alumna Sandy Summers, Sen. Dave Schatz, University of Missouri–Columbia student Ruth Ogunniyi, DNP student Carrie Plisco, DNP student Rachel Allen, PhD student Maureen Falcone, DNP student Jinnie Smith, PhD student Jodi Brown and DNP student Robert Bohnert attended the Association of Missouri Nurse Practitioners 2019 APRN Advocacy in Action day. (Photos courtesy of Laura Kuensting)

The advanced practice student nurses at the University of Missouri–St. Louis had to decide: take a final or advocate for change.

The choice was easy.

So, on Feb. 13, six DNP and four PhD students along with College of Nursing Associate Teaching Professor and DNP Program Director Laura Kuensting set priorities, prepped talking points and headed to Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City, to present their cases to lawmakers.

Robert Bohnert (right in blue) talks with Representative LaKeySha Bosley (left) about the shortage of primary care providers in Missouri and how nurse practitioners could help.

Robert Bohnert (right, in blue) talks with Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (left) about the shortage of primary care providers in Missouri and how nurse practitioners could help.

“The students came well prepared to discuss issues surrounding policies and legislation regarding advanced practice registered nurse practice,” Kuensting said. “They were articulate, concise and professional, making me, and the UMSL College of Nursing, so proud of their contributions.”

The group went as part of the Association of Missouri Nurse Practitioners 2019 APRN Advocacy in Action day. They joined approximately 50 nurses in advocating for advancing the scope of practice laws. In Missouri, nurse practitioners are not fully authorized to care for patients and must work under the supervision of a collaborating physician. In particular, the group called for the elimination of what’s known as a “leash law,” which mandates that APRNs must stay within 50 miles of their collaborators.

The problem with this, explained DNP student Robert Bohnert, is that patients in rural and underserved areas are increasingly dependent on APRNs for their primary care needs. As an urgent care registered nurse, he has seen firsthand how patients, unable to get fast care from overloaded primary care doctors, rely on urgent or emergency providers instead.

“That’s expensive not only for them but for taxpayers,” Bohnert said. “In the next year, we’re going to have a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians. We have more and more people entering the health-care system because of the aging baby boomer population and the Affordable Care Act. We have less physicians because they are aging. We have more physicians who are going into specialty care, specialty services, rather than primary. We let them know this is what NPs are trained for. They’re educated in this.”

From left: Cheryl Rainey, Representative Gina Mitten, Rachel Allen and Jinnie Smith discuss increasing nurse practitioners’ scope of practice in Missouri.

From left: Cheryl Rainey, Representative Gina Mitten, Rachel Allen and Jinnie Smith discuss increasing nurse practitioners’ scope of practice in Missouri.

The day started with a discussion on the APRN bills filed for the 2019 legislative session and how to talk with elected officials about them. The nurses visited with their legislators afterward, had lunch and then concluded with a legislative debrief and continuing education instruction.

During the legislative session, the student nurses met with their districts’ elected officials including Rep. Bruce DeGroot, District 101; Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, District 70, Rep. Gina Mitten, District 83; and Sen. Dave Schatz, District 26.

Bohnert could see his legislators working hard, and the experience made him realize how critical it was to share his perspective.

“I definitely learned a lot,” he said. “I thought it was great that they would take time to listen to their constituents, and it made me realize how important it was to be able to go there and talk about it. They seemed like they were interested in hearing, and they wanted to know what’s going on and how they can make things better for our state. It made me want to go back and do it again.”

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