Every state has some version of a Nurse Practice Act that sets the legal parameters for what nurses can and cannot do within their jurisdiction. Nurses in each state should take the time to learn the details on the laws regarding their state. For nurses getting their RN to BSN or MSN in nursing, knowing the rules as detailed by the act is key to doing their job.
In Texas, the Nurse Practice Act is maintained on the Texas Board of Nursing site. The state Legislature, which meets for 140 days every two years, can amend the act when in session. It also can be amended during a special legislative session called by the governor, although this has never happened.
History of Nurse Practice Act
There is no provision in the United States to regulate nursing at the federal level, which is why it falls to lawmakers in each state. At the turn of the 20th century, states took an interest in establishing rules and regulations for nurses, up until then, almost anyone could simply say they were a nurse, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
States wanted to “legitimize the profession in the eyes of the public, limit the number of people who hired out as nurses, raise the quality of professional nurses, and improve educational standards in schools of nursing,” according to NCSBN. The first state to pass a law that resembled a Nurse Practice Act was North Carolina in 1903. New Jersey, New York, and Virginia quickly followed suit. All states required licensure by the 1970s. Starting in 1938, all states also adopted laws that defined the scope of nursing.
What All Nursing Practice Acts Include
Most states have built their laws upon similar language. However, lawmakers in each state will include provisions that address specific issues in each state.
Every Nurse Practice Act includes the following, according to the NCSBN:
- Definitions for nursing
- Establishment of the authority, power, and composition of a Board of Nursing
- Educational program standards
- Standard and scope of nursing practice
- Types of titles and licenses
- Protection of titles
- Requirements for licensure
- Grounds for disciplinary action, other violations, and possible remedies
Texas Nursing Practice Act
The Texas Nurse Practice Act covers all the above issues. To help nurses and those who want to be nurses navigate the complexities of the act, the Texas Board of Nursing provides an extensive list of frequently asked questions about nursing regulations. They include issues such as telenursing and telehealth, forensic evidence collection and lists of tasks that a nurse in Texas can or cannot perform. Those include circumstances under which to initiate CPR and when nurses have the duty to report confidential health information. Such details within the Nurse Practice Act provide guidance for nurses and other healthcare professionals in Texas.
Not all states have an act that only covers nurses. For example, Michigan has the Occupational Regulation Sections of the Michigan Public Health Code that covers 25 different healthcare occupations, including nursing. In all cases, states have acts that provide for safe, competent nursing practice within their borders. The goal is to protect patients who receive nursing care in their state. Understanding what is in the Nurse Practice Act, as well as other state rules and regulations for working as a nurse, are requirements for practicing nurses.