Nurse prescription bill clears Senate

ATLANTA - The Senate on Monday approved legislation that would allow advanced practice registered nurses to write prescriptions in Georgia.

But the unanimous vote on the Senate floor belied a dispute still simmering over how much authority supervising doctors should have over APRNs.

The bill Sen. Don Thomas brought to the floor Monday would put advanced practice nurses more directly under doctors' supervision than a version of the legislation passed by the House early this month.

Thomas, R-Dalton, said his bill would prevent retail chain stores from opening clinics staffed by APRNs with little or no supervision from doctors.

"This is bad medicine,'' said Thomas, the only physician in the General Assembly. "We need to do what is best for patients.''

However, senators narrowly approved an amendment to Thomas' bill incorporating the less restrictive language of the House measure.

"They worked out a compromise bill,'' said Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, chief sponsor the amendment. "It's been worked on all session long and gone through a lot of negotiations.''

Georgia is one of only two states that don't allow APRNs to write prescriptions. Supporters of giving them that right say it would improve access to health care in Georgia, especially in medically under-served rural areas.

The Senate bill now moves to the House, where lawmakers will continue working to strike a balance that meets the goal of improving access while maintaining adequate physician supervision.