Understanding Nurse Practice Acts: Definition and Impact

Instructor: Sheila Bouie
This lesson gives an overview of Nurse Practice Acts. It takes a short look at the history leading up to enactment of Nurse Practice Acts, defines Nurse Practice Acts, and Boards of Nursing.

History of the Nurse Practice Act

Would you give your pet drugs that were offered by someone who wanted to be a veterinarian but was not actually a veterinarian? What about if you had severe pain in your tooth? Would it matter if the person offering to fill your cavity was a dentist or just pretending to be a dentist? Of course it matters, and it matters that patients receive nursing care from real nurses, not imposters. Without the rules set forth in a Nurse Practice Act, there would not be a way to determine if the people practicing nursing were actually educated as nurses!

Before nursing organizations were established and before regulations governing the practice of nursing existed, nurses were more or less freelance artists. Anyone could offer their services as a nurse without having previous training or a recognized skill set. This was a dangerous practice, and it endangered the health of the public.

In the early 1900s, there were over 400 training schools for nurses. Individuals who were actually trained as nurses started to organize. The New York State Nurses Association was one of the first organizations of trained nurses. It was this organization that championed the idea that trained nurses should be registered as a matter of public safety.

In 1904, North Carolina became the first state to enact a nurse practice act. One of the tenants of the act was to protect the title of Registered Nurse.

What Is a Nurse Practice Act?

Each state has an obligation to ensure public safety, health, and the welfare of it's citizens. The licensing of healthcare providers helps to ensure public safety by identifying standards that potential applicants must meet before becoming licensed. It forbids those without the appropriate training and education to perform in that role and violation of those rules is breaking the law.

Every nurse who practices, regardless of the area in which they practice is governed by a Nurse Practice Act (NPA) of the state where they practice.

An NPA is enacted by state legislation and its purpose is to govern and guide nursing practice within that state. An NPA is actually a law and must be adhered to as law. Each state has a Board of Nursing (BON) that interprets and enforces the rules of the NPA.

What Do NPAs Cover?

All NPAs minimally address the following areas:

  • Pre-licensure education program standards

This means that any program offering nursing education must comply with the rules outlined in that state's NPA.

  • Title protection

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support