Background: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee's Governor issued executive orders temporarily suspending certain practice restrictions on advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), which expired after 2 months as the pandemic worsened.
Purpose: This purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze APRN interview data to evaluate how prepandemic APRN practice barriers, executive orders, and the pandemic affected APRN practice in Tennessee.
Methods: Fifteen Tennessee APRNs who completed the National APRN Practice and Pandemic study also completed follow-up interviews via a HIPAA-compliant Zoom platform. Given the unprecedented circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted a qualitative descriptive study seeking descriptions and unique perspectives of Tennessee APRNs. Consistent with qualitative study design, we conducted an atheoretical study that featured interviews, purposeful sampling with maximum variation sampling, and content analysis.
Results: The major themes were practice changes, impact of executive orders, and ongoing care barriers. The data revealed that patients, APRNs, and other health care providers were strained in new and profound ways during the pandemic. An underlying theme was Tennessee APRNs' frustration with continued regulatory and other practice barriers despite their state's health and health care disparities and under resourced health care system.
Conclusion: These findings indicate the need to improve care access and health outcomes, advocate for full practice authority for APRNs, support telehealth expansion, address transportation deficiencies, and respond to the pandemic-precipitated mental health crisis.
Keywords: COVID-19; advanced practice nursing; delivery of health care; health policy; mental health; policy.
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