A legislative study committee considering possible changes in how physician assistants and advanced practice nurses operate in Georgia will be led by a Bartow County state lawmaker.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan recently appointed District 52 State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, as chairman of the Senate Study Committee on Evaluating and Simplifying Physician Oversight of Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.

Some state lawmakers and medical professionals in recent years have called for loosening some rules requiring physician oversight of PAs and APRNs to increase the availability of quality health care in areas with few family practitioners.

Hufstetler recently said Georgia has tighter restrictions on PAs and APRNs than many other states, the Rome News Tribune reported.

“We’re going to look at regulations nationally and in the state and try to come up with a scope of practice — who can do what,” he recently told the Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club.

The study committee was established to review the current laws requiring physician oversight, the various state licensing boards that govern physician assistants and APRNs, and how the regulations are working in practice, a news release stated.

According to Senate Resolution 202, the panel will evaluate current state laws and proposed revisions “to determine how such physician oversight could be simplified and streamlined.”

Hufstetler, whose district includes part of Bartow County, said in a news release he was “honored to be chosen to chair this study committee and look forward to looking into a topic that has been the subject of a lot of legislation and conversations over the past several years.”

“By working with the many interested parties and hearing various points of view, I am sure we can come to an agreeable conclusion,” he said.

“I look forward to learning, listening and evaluating current regulations in our state to create streamlined regulations that work for everyone.”

Hufstetler sponsored the resolution which includes some reasons the study committee is needed.

“State laws governing physician oversight of mid-level providers are complex and difficult to navigate in the practice environment,” stated Senate Resolution 202.

“Oversight of agreements delegating authority to mid-level providers is governed by multiple state licensure boards (and) the evolving practice environment makes piecemeal approaches to revisions to state laws regarding such physician oversight difficult to implement.”

In addition to representing his Senate seat, Hufstetler works as an anesthetist at Redmond Regional Hospital and is a graduate of Emory University School of Medicine, according to a biography on the Georgia State Senate website.

Physician assistants are “health care professionals licensed, or in the case of those employed by the federal government, credentialed to practice medicine with physician supervision,” according to the Emory School of Medicine.

“As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.”

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, also known as APRNs, are nurses “who have met advanced educational and clinical practice requirements, and often provide services in community-based settings,” according to the American Nurses Association.

The committee must report its findings to the Georgia Senate on or before Dec. 1, 2019.

A similar House study committee also has been established.

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