State Sen Patrick Testin

Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point. 

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s latest push for licensing reform could mean more nurses could work independently across the state.

The Senate’s Committee on Health listened to hours of testimony on Wednesday about a plan to change the licensing rules for advanced practice nurses, commonly referred to as APRNs.

“We’re trying to increase the quality of care,” Sen Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, said Wednesday. “[And] the data that we are looking at from other states where they’ve been allowed to practice at the highest end of their scope, doesn’t seem to suggest that there has been a catastrophic drop in the quality of care.”

Testin’s plan, SB 394, would create a new license for APRN who work as either a certified nurse-midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, or a nurse practitioner. The proposal would allow them to work without direct supervision from a doctor, and would allow APRNs to prescribe medications.

Some of Wisconsin’s medical groups don’t like the idea, either because it would add to their regulatory burden or because of fears that APRNs could push-out physicians.

“I think it is a real risk to our state to just jump the pool without knowing what you’re getting into,” Mark Grapentine with the Wisconsin Medical Society told lawmakers.

But many nurses, including advanced practice nurse Gina Bryan, a clinical professor at University of Wisconsin School of Nursing, told lawmakers some of the fears are overblown.

“I have not, in any practice I have been in ... I have not seen any provider trying to carve out physicians,” Bryan said.

Bryan said allowing APRNs to work more independently will mean more nurses in the field, seeing more patients, and getting people more care.

“When the legislation goes through for full practice authority for APRNs, do I believe it increases access? 100%,” Bryan added.

Twenty three states already have full practice laws on their books, Testin said Wiscnsin has been working on its plan for years. Wednesday’s hearing was just that, a hearing. Testin is not saying when he expects his legislation to come up for a vote.