South Carolina bolsters rural care access by letting NPs travel farther

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster recently signed a law to address the state's primary care physician shortage in rural areas by letting nurse practitioners travel farther to provide care, WSPA reports.

Previous South Carolina law mandated that nurses practice within 45 miles of their supervising physician, but the law no longer requires it, The Post and Courier reports. The law also increased the number of NPs a physician can supervise from three to six.

"We rank F in chronic disease management and primary care access, and we need to do a better job," Columbia-based University of South Carolina nursing educator Stephanie Burgess, PhD, told WSPA.

Since 42 of the state's 46 counties are considered rural, thousands of South Carolina residents are underserved due to a lack of care access. 

"Many physicians are located in urban areas, that's just a fact that means when you start drawing that 45-mile radius, other nurses and nurse practitioners can't get into that area," said Sen. Tom Davis, R-S.C., who helped pass the bill.

Under the law, NPs cannot prescribe medicine for chronic pain management, but can treat acute pain, prescribe some medicines and sign handicap placards and student homebound forms.

The state aims to pair this law with telehealth programs to expand care access to all residents.

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