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Nurses rally for 'right to write'

By Justin Boron

Constance Nkongho of Riverdale, who is studying to become a nurse, waved a sign in front of the Capitol Monday because she said she wants to be able to do all of what she is training to do, including writing and signing prescriptions.

Nkongho gathered with about 50 to 60 other nurses chanting for their "right to write" prescriptions in Georgia, which is the only state without a law permitting nurses to do so. The rally has become an annual event during each legislative session for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, who say they have been ignored by legislators and muted by special interest groups like the Medical Association of Georgia.

Essentially, nurses are giving prescriptions already, said Karen Schwartz, 33, who is an OB/GYN nurse practitioner in Duluth.

They often determine the necessary medicine for a patient and write the prescription. Nurses just don't have the right to authorize it with their signature, she said.

Anne Koci, a family nurse practitioner and an instructor at Georgia State University, said the state must join the rest of the country in terms of the laws governing nurses.

"We're still in the dark ages as far as prescription writing," she said.

In addition to empowering them, nurses say the right to issue prescriptions would benefit the patient as well.

"The patients would have increased satisfaction because the waiting period to get their prescription filled would be reduced," said Chandila Tutt, 33, of Jonesboro, who is studying to become a clinical nurse specialist.

Senate Democratic Whip David Adelman, D-Decatur stood on the steps with the nurses and said it is irrational that Georgia hasn't given them the authority to write prescriptions.

"You have doctor groups that are well intentioned, but in this case overprotective," he said.

The group came close to succeeding in 2000 when the House of Representatives passed their bill.

But the legislation died in the Senate.

David Cook, the executive director of the Medical Association of Georgia, said he doesn't have a problem with nurses authorizing prescriptions, they just need to do with supervision of a physician.

He said the nurses aren't being completely genuine in what they are asking for.

"I think what they want is a little different than what they are saying," Cook said.

Instead of just authorizing the prescriptions, he said nurses are asking for the right to do it without oversight from a doctor.