A new law will expand nurse practitioners’ abilities and privileges in South Carolina including increased prescribing power and changes how they are supervised. Of the almost 40,000 nurses in the state, 2,036 are nurse practitioners, according to the South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce.
For years, the S.C. Medical Association worried such a move would be a disservice to patients, while nurses argued that South Carolina laws were outdated and barred them from providing basic primary care to their patients, especially in rural areas.
Here’s how the new law will impact patients and the health care industry in South Carolina:
The law gives them new authority to prescribe Schedule II medications. Those drugs include powerful painkillers such as morphine or Dilaudid and stimulants like Ritalin. Before, they could prescribe from the lower schedules. The nurses will generally be able to prescribe five days’ worth of opioids, for example, and 30 days’ worth of Ritalin or Adderall.
Nurse practitioners will also be able to put patients in hospice. Their “prescriptive authority” has to be outlined in a written agreement with a doctor. Nurse practitioners in the state will not be required to have one but the agreement could expand what they’re allowed to do.
Previous South Carolina law stated the nurse had to practice within 45 miles of their supervising physician. After years of efforts to have that restriction lifted, the law now no longer requires it. The new law also increases the number of nurse practitioners a physician can supervise. It was three before. Now it is six. Physicians still may be liable, however, if the nurse practitioner they have an agreement with violates any rules or mishandles someone’s care.