Journal of Advanced Practice Nursing

Why Nurses Are Racing To Minnesota-And Why It Will Continue


The Minnesota Board of Nursing is working seven days a week, attempting to process nearly 5,000 Advanced Practice Registered Nurse applications by the first of the year. That's when a new law kicks-in that will give nurses more authority to treat patients without doctor supervision.

Proponents of the law say it could help solve Minnesota's looming doctor shortage. The Minnesota Department of Health thinks there will be a state-wide shortage of up to 2,000 doctors by the year 2020, largely because doctors are getting older and retiring and not as many new doctors are replacing them.

"It really is a all hands on deck moment in Minnesota," said Mary Chesney, the director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the University of Minnesota and the former president of the Minnesota Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Coalition. "It allows us to do what APRN's are educated and trained to do. So are we going to have the full, expansive practice that a physician has? No."

Many APRN's already do things like write prescriptions. The difference is that right now, they have to work in collaboration with a doctor. Starting January first, they won't.

Many physician organizations, like the Minnesota Medical Association, lobbied against the law, saying they aren't convinced it's in the best interest of their patients.

"Our approach is to emphasize and double down on teamwork," explained Will Nicholson, a Maplewood family doctor and a member of the MMA. "I believe that we have to be absolutely sure that we're doing the right thing for our patients before we launch something statewide."

So maybe the new law will help solve the state's doctor shortage, maybe it won't. In the meantime all parties agree, doctors and nurses will still need each other.

"They are tremendously talented people. Their training is in demand," said Nicholson of APRN's.

"I still look for us to work very much in partnership," said Chesney of doctors.

Under the new law, new nursing graduates will still have to work in collaboration with a doctor for 2080 hours before being allowed to work independently. That's about one year for a full-time nurse.


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