We examine whether relaxing occupational licensing to allow nurse practitioners (NPs)—registered nurses with advanced degrees—to prescribe medication without physician oversight improves population mental health. Exploiting time-series variation in independent prescriptive authority for NPs from 1990 to 2014, we find that broadening prescriptive authority leads to improvements in self-reported mental health and decreases in mental health–related mortality. These improvements are concentrated in areas that are underserved by physicians and among populations that have difficulty accessing physician-provided care. Our results demonstrate that extending independent prescriptive authority to NPs can help mitigate physician shortages and extend care to disadvantaged populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health Policy