Indiana News

Indiana nurse practitioner bill draws ire from doctors

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Some physicians Monday raised concerns about Indiana legislation that would allow nurse practitioners to work without a doctor’s direct supervision. 

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who can prescribe medicine and diagnose patients.  Republican state Rep. Ron Bacon said some people in rural areas in his district live up to 30 miles from a hospital or doctor’s office. House District 75 is east of Evansville and is comprised large portions of Warrick, Spencer and Pike counties in southern Indiana.

“We want to get them to adequate health care when they need it,” Bacon said about his legislation in the House.

Some doctors don’t agree the bill will do that, so Bacon pulled the legislation from consideration by the full House on Monday. Bacon said a similar bill has already passed in the Senate. The new plan is to compromise and distill the chambers’ legislation into a reworked proposal.

“We’re meeting with the physicians’ groups,” Bacon said. “I’ve already talked to them this past week. Each of them are going to meet with us and tell us what they want to accomplish with the bill. So, we’ll try and get it over the finish line at the end.”

Dr. Cheryl Ferguson is not keen on the idea. She has been a pediatrician for 22 years. 

“In other states that already have this bill, the nurse practitioners don’t go to rural areas any more than physicians do,” Ferguson said. “It’s hard to make a living in rural areas. There aren’t enough people. So, it’s really not going to help that problem.”

There’s another reason these doctors, including emergency room physician Dr. Steve Sample, don’t want the bill.

“We think it’s really important for all of our patients to have a physician-led team. Nurse practitioners are absolutely a vital part of health care,” Sample said. “There’s not enough of us (physicians) to go around. Our argument fundamentally is we want the most-educated provider with the most experience to take care of our mothers and our fathers and our kids.” 

Rep. Bacon said, “This has nothing to do with their training. They have their four-year RN (registered nurse), their 2-3 years APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) with either their master’s or doctorate degrees afterward.”

Statement

Angela Thompson of the Coalition of Advanced Practice Nurses of Indiana issued a statement that said in part:

“Indiana has the opportunity to bring cost-effective health care change that would favorably impact Hoosiers in our state. It’s time to move forward with proven solutions and retire outdated regulations so we can better meet the state’s current and future health care needs. Twenty-two states already allow APRNs the freedom to put their education and training to work to improve the health — and the lives — of residents.”

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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