State lawmakers eliminate barriers to healthcare recruitment


South Dakota This week state lawmakers passed a bill designed to help recruit more certified nurse practitioners and certified nurse mid-wives to rural areas.

Healthcare providers and educators from around the state spent hours testifying to state lawmakers over the past few weeks about Senate Bill 61, a measure to eliminate a required collaborative agreement between physicians and certified nurse practitioners.

“These advanced practice nurses and certified midwives, they work in collaboration with a physician and they can, within their scope of practice, provide some of the services you may seek like diagnosis or treatment,” Representative Jean Hunhoff said.

Many rural South Dakota communities depend on certified nurses for their medical care, a position that requires constant contact with a physician.

“The current law today for a collaborating physical I think requires them to have face time one afternoon or one day a month,” Horizon’s Healthcare CEO John Mengenhausen said.

Those collaborative agreements generally aren’t an issue in large cities like Sioux Falls where there are many nearby physicians to choose from, but in some rural areas, the nearest physician may be hours away.

“It takes her four and a half hours to drive to Eagle Butte to spend four hours there collaborating and reviewing charts then the next day she has to drive back home,” Mengenhausen said of one of his physicians who drives from Huron to Eagle Butte to collaborate with a local nurse practitioner.

All time that physician could have spent seeing patients.

“From every area we are hearing of a workforce shortage,” Rep. Hunhoff said. “A lot of our community based programs and providers, they don’t have the staff there, and in some of the community based programs, they’re beginning not to accept patients or clients into their programs because they don’t have a staff.”

Horizons Healthcare has 26 rural clinics across South Dakota; Mengenhausen says he always has roughly a dozen job openings available for healthcare professionals and support staff.

“Because of our rural locations and some of our frontier sites, recruitment for healthcare professionals is difficult,” Mengenhausen said.

That shortage has also made it difficult for universities to recruit teaching staff from South Dakota.

“The state of South Dakota is very short on mental health care providers and we at the College of Nursing tried to recruit a mental health nurse practitioner to join our faculty,” SDSU Dean of Nursing Nancy Fahrenwald said.

Fahrenwald said after their statewide searched had no applicants, they searched around the nation and found only one applicant.

“Unfortunately when she found out the collaborative agreement was still required, she turned down the position,” Fahrenwald said.
The bill to eliminate those collaborative agreements does add a required 1040 clinical hours after graduation before nurse practitioner can practice on their own.

The bill passed both the house and the senate and is now awaiting a signature from the Governor.

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State lawmakers eliminate barriers to healthcare recruitment

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