Beginning in Jan. 2023, some California nurse practitioners (NPs) will finally gain the right to treat patients without a physician assigned to supervise them. It’s a right these professionals have been seeking for years. Even though California is at the forefront of allowing NPs greater autonomy, the process has been slow.
The Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) has been working out the details of how to implement a law signed in 2020 by Gov. Gavin Newsom creating two new categories of more independent NPs. Beginning in January, NPs with at least three years or 4,600 hours of full-time clinical practice in the state can apply to be included in the first category, which allows them to work in locations without physician supervision. However, there still must be at least one doctor practicing at the location who is available for consultation if needed.
After three years of practice in these settings, an NP can apply for the second category, which allows them to work in a setting without any physicians. They could even potentially open their own practice. Of course, they have to be clear with patients and the public that they are NPs and not doctors.
California NP facing consequences for calling herself a “doctor”
One NP who also has a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree was recently fined nearly $20,000 for referring to herself as “Dr. Sarah” to patients and in advertising for her Arroyo Grande holistic healing clinic. She says she is also fighting the revocation of her license by the BRN.
The NP says she never identified herself as a physician. However, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, she “failed to advise the public that she was not a medical doctor and failed to identify her supervising physician.”
Most NPs have no interest in presenting themselves as doctors, whether directly or indirectly. They just want the opportunity to treat patients – and their skills are sorely needed in many rural and other underserved areas throughout the state where physicians are scarce or not available.
As the new categories of NP roll out over the next few years, there will no doubt be some questions and confusion. If you’re facing issues with your license, it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance.