A new full-practice authority law that allows patients in Maryland to receive the full scope of services that nurse practitioners are educated and clinically trained to deliver has been passed, according to a press release from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

The Maryland law expands patient access to high-quality health care and promotes a wider geographic distribution of the state’s health care workforce. The new policy was passed by Governor Larry Hogan and legislators in Maryland.

“The legislative leadership we’ve seen in states like Maryland illustrates how lawmakers are increasingly rallying behind nurse practitioners as essential providers, especially equipped to meet the health care needs of constituents,” said AANP president Ken Miller, PhD, RN, CFNP, FAAN, FAANP.

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The legislation retires the mandate that Maryland nurse practitioners maintain “attestation agreements” with physicians as a pre-condition of licensure and practice, which had previously discouraged nurse practitioners from practicing in rural and unserved areas of the state, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Governor Hogan signed the bill (HB 999/SB 723) into law on May 12, making Maryland the 21st full-practice authority state, and the seventh state to right-size regulations affecting nurse practitioner patients in the last four years. The move closely follows actions undertaken in Nebraska, which similarly eased nurse practitioner restrictions in March 2015.

 “We urge all states considering similar legislation to champion this tried-and-true, no-cost health care solution that is gaining momentum all throughout the nation,” noted Miller.

According to AANP, the new law will not only improve access to care and provider choice among patients in Maryland, but also enhance the state’s ability to recruit nurse practitioners from its neighbors, which have yet to right-size nurse practitioner laws, with the exception of Washington, D.C.

Independent research has shown nurse practitioners are more likely to move to and work in states where they can serve patients with full-practice authority, a significant issue as the U.S. contends with rising demand for health services nationwide.

Leading policy groups like the Institute of Medicine have long recommended that states take legislative action similar to Maryland to improve health care access. They cite extensive data showing nurse practitioners, including those with full-practice authority, have outcomes that are equivalent to those of physicians, and also offer patients a much-needed approach that is highly focused on health promotion and disease prevention.