ATLANTA – On Tuesday, Aug. 4, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an historic healthcare bill which was overwhelmingly passed by the Georgia Legislature during the 2020 session (www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20192020/SB/321). SB 321 will allow Georgia’s Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) to order routine advanced radiographic imaging tests such as MRIs and CT Scans. With the passage of SB 321, Georgia becomes the final state to remove this barrier on APRNs, improving access to healthcare across Georgia. Additionally, the bill removes several barriers for Georgia’s Physician Assistants, which gives them parity with APRNs.
The Coalition of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (CAPRN, www.caprn.org), the United Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Georgia (UAPRN, www.uaprn.enpnetwork.com) and the Georgia Nursing Leadership Coalition (GNLC, www.georgianursingleadershipcoalition.com) were the leading nursing organizations that advocated for years to encourage the legislature to make these changes to Georgia’s laws.
“For years, Georgia’s Advanced Practice Registered Nurses have operated under the most restrictive regulations in the country, hampering our ability to care for patients as we have been educated, licensed and trained to do,” said Michelle Nelson, Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC, co-director of CAPRN and state president of UAPRN of Georgia. “Historically, these restrictions have caused unnecessary delays in patient care, as well as increased medical costs for patients. Now, with the pandemic raging, we have the additional challenge of many Georgia APRNs being hired away by other states where they are not as restricted, which is causing further hardships for Georgia patients. We applaud our state legislature and Governor Kemp for recognizing the crucial healthcare services and patient care APRNs provide, and for taking the first step in lifting the restrictions under which we have been forced to operate. Several key leaders were instrumental in the passage of this momentous healthcare legislation including Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, and Senator Chuck Hufstetler, as well as Representatives Alan Powell, Randy Nix, Jasmine Clark, Trey Kelly and Bert Reeves.
CAPRN, UAPRN and GNLC have spent years educating and informing the medical community, lawmakers and the general public about the need for lifting Georgia’s APRN practice restrictions. The professional groups hosted information sessions, met with lawmakers and created a website, www.georgiansunitedforhealthcare.org, where the public could learn more and show support for the pending legislation.
“This bill is the first removal of any restrictions on the scope of Georgia’s APRN practice in 14 years, but the important thing is the difference it will make in patients’ lives,” said Lisa Wright Eichelberger, Ph.D., RN, dean of Clayton State University’s College of Health. “Both CAPRN and UAPRN have been working on getting this legislation passed since 2012, and we are thrilled and gratified it has finally happened. The bill will allow APRNs to provide more quality, cost-effective patient care, as the need has never been greater. We are grateful to Governor Kemp and all the Georgia legislators who helped remove this unnecessary barrier to care for Georgians.”