Experts Say Nurse Practitioner Law to Benefit Underserved Communities

Jul 25, 2018

Nurse practitioner Kelli Garber consults with a patient through telehealth at C.E. Murray High School in Williamsburg County.
Credit Tabitha Safdi/SCETV

A new law that went into effect July 1 drastically changed the way advanced practice nurses can provide care in South Carolina.

Senate Bill 345, which Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law earlier this year, eliminated the 45-mile limit for advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to provide care. Prior to the new law, APRNs had to be within a 45-mile radius of a supervising physician in order to practice.

The law’s supporters praised the move to erase the mileage restriction, saying it would open the door for nurse practitioners to stay in the communities that would benefit most from their practice.

“Many nurse practitioners would love to work in some of the small and more rural towns,” said Kelli Garber, the lead nurse practitioner at the Medical University of South Carolina. “But due to the limited number of providers, they weren’t able to practice in those regions.”

Increased access to care is a major concern for medical professionals in South Carolina. Research from the Health Resources and Services Administration shows that at least part of every county in South Carolina is medically underserved.

The law now allows nurse practitioners to practice anywhere in the state, regardless of distance from the collaborating physician.

APRNs must have a practice agreement with a physician in order to provide care.

The law’s passage also expressly permits APRNs to practice using telehealth, expanding their role in a developing field of healthcare.