More flexibility for health care workers

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, May 28, 2022

In the 2022 General Assembly session, we worked diligently to ensure that our health care workers in Virginia had more opportunities to practice their skills in more environments, and to do so safely. This includes removing rep tape and allowing our nurse practitioners and physician assistants to more fully utilize their practices to help more patients.

We’ve also given authority to the Board of Nursing to establish minimum standards for nursing programs across Virginia, so that our students and graduates will be fully prepared to handle the responsibility of this important career.

Other big changes include legislation that allows an optometrist who has received a certification from the Board of Optometry to perform laser eye surgery.

The last few years have been difficult for our health care professionals, who sacrificed so much to help keep Virginia healthy during COVID. I am grateful to each one of our health care workers and I am honored to represent you here in Richmond.

I’ve included some other bills that impact nursing that you might find of interest. You may also visit www.lis.virginia.gov for more information on these bills, or any other bill that was presented this year.

HB 213 Optometrists; allowed to perform laser surgery if certified by Board of Optometry

Allows an optometrist who has received a certification to perform laser surgery from the Board of Optometry (the Board) to perform certain types of laser surgery of the eye and directs the Board to issue a certification to perform laser surgery to any optometrist who submits evidence satisfactory to the Board that he (i) is certified by the Board to prescribe for and treat diseases or abnormal conditions of the human eye and its adnexa with therapeutic pharmaceutical agents pursuant to Code requirements and (ii) has satisfactorily completed such didactic and clinical training programs provided by an accredited school or college of optometry that includes training in the use of lasers for the medically appropriate and recognized treatment of the human eye as the Board may require. The bill also requires the Board to adopt regulations (a) establishing criteria for certification of an optometrist to perform permitted laser surgeries and (b) requiring optometrists to register annually with the Board and to report information regarding any disciplinary action, malpractice judgment, or malpractice settlement against the provider and any evidence that indicates the provider may be unable to engage safely in the practice of his profession. The bill also requires optometrists certified to perform laser surgery to report certain information regarding the number and types of laser surgeries performed and the conditions treated, as well as any adverse treatment outcomes associated with the performance of such laser surgeries to the Board and requires the Board to report such information to the Governor and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources annually. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 145 Physician assistants; practice Removes the requirement that physician assistants appointed as medical examiners practice as part of a patient care team.

For hospice program licensing, the bill adds physician assistants to the list of hospice personnel who may be part of a medically directed interdisciplinary team. The bill removes a reference to physician assistants in the definition of patient care team podiatrist. Finally, the bill permits physician assistants working in the field of orthopedics as part of a patient care team to utilize fluoroscopy for guidance of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, provided other requirements are met. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 604 Nursing, Board of; power and duty to prescribe minimum standards, etc., for educational programs.

Board of Nursing; education programs; oversight. Gives the Board of Nursing the power and duty to prescribe minimum standards and approve curricula for educational programs preparing persons for registration as a medication aide and to provide periodic surveys of training programs. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 242 Practice of licensed professional counselors.

Adds licensed professional counselors to the list of eligible providers who can disclose or recommend the withholding of patient records, face a malpractice review panel, and provide recommendations on involuntary temporary detention orders. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 264 Public health emergency; out-of-state licenses; deemed licensure.

Allows a practitioner of a profession regulated by the Board of Medicine who is licensed in another state or the District of Columbia and who is in good standing with the applicable regulatory agency in that state or the District of Columbia to engage in the practice of that profession in the Commonwealth with a patient located in the Commonwealth when (i) such practice is for the purpose of providing continuity of care through the use of telemedicine services and (ii) the patient is a current patient of the practitioner with whom the practitioner has previously established a practitioner-patient relationship and the practitioner has performed an in-person examination of the patient within the previous 12 months. The bill also provides that when the Board of Health has issued an emergency order, the Boards of Medicine and Nursing may waive (a) the requirement for submission of a fee for renewal or reinstatement of a license to practice medicine or osteopathic medicine or as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner and (b) the requirement for submission of evidence that a practitioner whose license was allowed to lapse for failure to meet professional activity requirements has satisfied such requirements and is prepared to resume practice in a competent manner for any person who held a valid, unrestricted, active license within the four-year period immediately prior to the application for renewal or reinstatement of such license. This bill is identical to SB 369. This bill was effective April 27.

Virginia’s budget stalemate continues, but there are signs of progress, and we are told negotiators are very close to an agreement and could possibly meet on June 1 to vote. The larger items that were in contention have pretty much been worked out. And we’re pretty much finished with those issues. We’ve now just got a few minor things we’re working on. And upon completion of those we’ll be ready to get back to business.

Last week Gov. Glenn Youngkin released a groundbreaking report delivered to him by the Virginia Department of Education on the state of Virginia’s public education system. The 33-page report details how state policy choices and priorities over the last decade have resulted in lower student achievement in reading and mathematics, wider achievement gaps and eroding parent confidence in the commonwealth’s public schools.

Virginia’s wide gaps between student proficiency standards on state reading and math assessments and the grade-level proficiency benchmarks on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – also known as “The Nation’s Report Card” – create an “Honesty Gap.”

Only 33% of Virginia eighth graders are proficient in reading on the 2019 Nation’s Report Card put out by the National Association for Education Progress. Only 38% of Virginia fourth graders are proficient in reading. From 2017 to 2019, reading SOL scores declined every year. And 42% of Virginia second graders scored below reading benchmarks on PALS in Fall 2021. Virginia has fallen from third to ninth in the nation on students earning college credit on AP exams.

This report is an initial step in Gov. Youngkin’s work to ensure high expectations and excellence for all students – efforts that will continue for years to come. In the next four years, we will establish and maintain high expectations for students, schools and ourselves. We will advance parent and teacher empowerment to best serve students in partnership and demand zero-tolerance for discrimination in education and beyond. We will foster innovation in all education environments and provide transparency and accountability so that each child is seen and receives what they need to succeed. We will ensure post-secondary readiness so that all learners can succeed in life and protect and nurture freedom of speech and inquiry to ensure every student is taught how to think, not what to think.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.