Nurse practitioners canvas the Capitol for more freedom

    A group of nurse practitioners canvassed the Oklahoma Capitol Tuesday working for more freedom. (KOKH)

    Oklahoma is in need of more doctors for patients and nurses say they are willing to step up to the plate.

    Ferdie Djioto says she is following in her family's footsteps.

    "I grew up with a father who was a physician assistant and my grandmother was midwife," Djioto said.

    Growing up in Africa Djioto worked with HIV and AIDS patients which inspired her to help others.

    "I saw people get sick and die too young. I always wanted to do something to help the people," Djioto said.

    She was trained as a nurse and now is working on an advanced degree at Oklahoma City University to become a nurse practitioner.

    "There's more to do. It will just widen my scope of practice," Djioto said.

    On Tuesday, dozens of white lab coats made the rounds at the Oklahoma Capitol. The group met with lawmakers about the benefits of nurse practitioners to Oklahomans.

    They often treat patients who can't see doctor and with a majority of Oklahoma counties facing a health care shortage, that can save lives.

    Leah Melton, a diabetes nurse practitioner, says the current wait time to see a physician who specializes in endocrinology is four to six weeks.

    "I can take a patient within one to two weeks. That speaks a lot to where nurse practitioners can fill that gap," Melton said.

    The group says the problem they face is that they cannot prescribe medicine without a doctor sponsoring them. In many cases they have to pay for that sponsorship.

    This year, State Rep. Jon Echols filed a bill to give practitioners more freedom to practice medicine. It didn't get a hearing.

    "What I've said from the beginning, if somebody has a better idea on how to increase access, I'm all ears, but that's what we have to do as a state. We have to increase access to care," Echols said.

    Care that nurse practitioners say they're ready and willing to provide as soon as the law is on their side.

    Echols' bill had dozens of co-sponsors but wasn't heard because the committee chair decided not to take it up this year. He plans to introduce the legislation next year.

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