The Utah House has passed a bill that would greatly expand the authority of advanced-practice nurses, giving them the ability to prescribe even the most powerful narcotic drugs.

HB351 also makes extensive changes in licensing and training requirements for nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and sets up a licensing board within the Department of Professional Licensing that would oversee those qualifications.Most significantly, the bill would provide that these advanced nurses, many of whom have several years of postgraduate training in a variety of specialties, would be allowed to enter into a collaborative agreement with a doctor. Under such an agreement, they could prescribe - without the doctor being present - Schedule II drugs, such as the hyperactivity drug Ritalin or painkillers like fentanyl, morphine or Demerol.

"This is particularly important for the rural areas of the state where a physician may not be around," said Majority Leader Christine Fox-Finlinson, the bill's sponsor.