Sacramento -The California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP) honored California State Assemblymember Jim Wood (D – Santa Rosa) today with its Nurse Practitioner Advocate of the Year award in recognition of his immense legislative, policy, and regulatory contributions. Wood, who represents the 2nd Assembly District and serves as Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, authored last year’s monumental legislation AB 890 allowing California nurse practitioners (NPs) to practice independently without physician supervision. Watch the award presentation here.
“The passage and enactment of CANP-sponsored AB 890 was a herculean effort, and one that quite simply would not have been achieved without Assemblymember Wood,” said CANP President and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Sutter Medical Group, Patti Gurney. “His commitment to California nurse practitioners is limitless, effectively turning action into law during CANP’s nearly 10-year, hard-fought battle for full practice authority. Wood’s dedication and leadership over the years in support of the health and well-being of all Californian’s enabled California NPs to achieve the most significant and longstanding goals in modern history for our profession.”
AB 890 passed through the California Legislature with broad bipartisan support and was signed ceremoniously into law on September 29, 2020 by Governor Gavin Newsom. Prior to AB 890, California nurse practitioners – advanced-degree nurses who provide comprehensive care – were unable to practice without a physician present or on-call. The removal of this restriction was consistently cited by independent experts as an important strategy to ensure that California patients have access to health care and to address health disparities in underserved communities. Specifically, AB 890 updated the Nursing Practice Act (in the state Business & Professions Code) to eliminate the supervisory requirement in existing law so NPs can provide the same high-quality care and practice to the full extent of their education and training.
“This issue was personal to me. I represent a very large and rural district with huge challenges for access to care, particularly primary care providers,” said Wood. “The impacts of this bill will be felt by generations to come. For me, that’s what this is all about. I’m very grateful that we got this done. There’s still work to do. We have challenges ahead of us throughout health care, but this is a big one and we need to celebrate how important it was for us to get this across the line.”
The ability for NPs to practice independently without a physician bridges critical health care needs across California. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s pre-existing provider gap and lack of access affected millions, with over 7 million Californians – primarily Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans – suffering from a shortfall of health care providers. Not only do NPs accept greater numbers of uninsured, Medi-Cal, and Medicare patients compared to physicians, but NPs are also more likely to work in rural and underserved communities in states without physician supervisory requirements.
Before authoring AB 890, Assemblymember Wood embarked on a multi-year journey to educate himself and develop legislation allowing nurse practitioners with additional experience, national certification, and examination to practice independently. Assemblymember Wood is himself a health care practitioner, having operated a family dental practice in Sonoma County for more than 25 years, and currently serves as a forensic dentistry consultant for numerous Northern California counties. He served as a commissioner on the California Future Health Workforce Commission throughout 2018 and, in February 2019, the Commission issued its final report. One of the Commission’s top 10 recommendations was to maximize the role of nurse practitioners and expand their practice authority. That same month, Wood introduced AB 890.
Editorial Boards across California – including the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, OC Registry, CalMatters, and San Jose Mercury News – endorsed the legislation. With its passage, California joined 22 other states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as jurisdictions that have instituted full practice authority for nurse practitioners. California was the only state remaining in the West without the provision. Throughout the legislative process the bill faced unwarranted opposition from organized medicine, making it a high-profile political challenge. As the bill sponsor, CANP proudly led and activated the 80-plus member Close the Provider Gap coalition that provided research-based messaging and compelling details to lawmakers, the media, and the public about the many merits of the law.
CANP and Assemblymember Wood continue to work on the implementation of AB 890, both legislatively and through the regulatory process, to ensure that the full intent of AB 890 is achieved. To learn more about the California Association for Nurse Practitioners visit canpweb.org.