A few summers ago, I ventured on an Alaskan cruise with family. All I can say about the experience is “Wow!”. Alaska is an amazing place, a sprawling wilderness complete with glaciers crashing to the sea, bears lumbering along rocky shorelines and yes, some of the best seafood you will ever eat. While Alaska’s great outdoors prove awe inspiring, providing healthcare for this largely rural state can be a challenge. Thankfully, Alaska’s lawmakers recognize the importance of nurse practitioners by passing laws to legally position NPs to play an important role in healthcare delivery for the state.
Alaska’s Nurse Practitioner Supervision Laws
Alaska’s laws concerning nurse practitioners are some of the most liberal in the nation. As one of the first states to embrace the role of nurse practitioners, Alaska began to adapt state laws giving NPs more freedom as early as the 1980’s. This helped the state increase the supply of healthcare providers, especially in remote areas.
Currently, nurse practitioners working in Alaska enjoy the freedom to practice independently, free of physician supervision. Physician involvement is not necessary for diagnosing, treating, or prescribing for patients in any way. NPs practicing in the state are also formally recognized as primary care providers, a distinction has favorable billing implications not enjoyed by NPs practicing in many states.
As a further convenience to nurse practitioners, Alaska allows NPs to begin practicing immediately upon graduating from an NP program while awaiting certification results. This gives new nurse practitioners a smooth transition from education to practice helping them find jobs quickly upon graduation.
Alaska’s Nurse Practitioner Prescribing Laws
Similarly to supervision laws, or rather lack thereof, prescribing laws allow NPs freedom in their practice. Physician involvement is not necessary for nurse practitioners to prescribe. In order to write prescriptions, nurse practitioners must submit an application to the state board of nursing as well as complete 15 contact hours of education in advanced pharmacology and clinical management within the two-year period immediately before the date of initial application.
NPs practicing in Alaska must renew their authority to prescribe every two years. In order to renew the application to prescribe, 12 hours of continuing education in advanced pharmacotherapeutics and 12 hours of continuing education in clinical management of patients must have been completed during the previous two years. In Alaska, nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe controlled substances.
Other Scope of Practice Laws
Although nurse practitioners in Alaska enjoy the freedom to practice independently, they are not allowed to sign death certificates. They may, however, sign handicap parking permits.
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