New law prohibits noncompete clauses for in nurse practitioners’ contracts

Such contracts can contribute to shortage of primary care providers

 

STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Sen. Pamela J. Lauria and Rep. June S. Speakman to prohibit noncompete clauses in employment contracts for nurse practitioners has been signed into law.

The measure aims to eliminate a barrier that not only prevents nurse practitioners from changing jobs, but also contributes to the shortage of primary care providers in Rhode Island.

“Enforcing noncompete clauses that prohibit nurse practitioners from practicing within a certain radius can effectively make it impossible for them to change jobs, particularly within certain specialties,” said Senator Lauria (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), who has worked as a primary care nurse practitioner for 27 years. “We are all aware of how hard it is to find primary care providers in Rhode Island today, and we should not allow noncompete clauses to curtail nurse practitioners’ ability to provide health care to Rhode Islanders.”

Said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), “Besides being unfairly restrictive to nurse practitioners, who should have the same protection doctors have from this practice, noncompete clauses are harmful to patient care. Nothing should restrict a patient who has a great relationship with their provider from following that provider if they move to a different practice. Health care is more than just a business, and noncompete clauses are a business practice that doesn’t belong in it.”

The legislation (2024-S 2220, 2024-H 7696) is similar to a law enacted in 2016 that prohibited noncompete clauses in employment contracts for physicians. Under this law, which took effect immediately upon passage, any noncompete clauses in nurse practitioners’ contracts are now void. The new law prohibits restrictions on a nurse practitioner’s right to practice in any geographic area or with any current patients for any period of time after the termination of the partnership, except in connection with the purchase and sale of a practice, and in that case, for no more than five years.

Nurse practitioners are nurses with advanced clinical education and training who are licensed to care for patients without supervision from a physician. They share many duties with physicians, and many serve as primary care providers in Rhode Island.

The sponsors added that, in a state as small as Rhode Island, most health care is provided within a 10-mile radius of the hospitals in Providence, so noncompete clauses that prohibit nurse practitioners from working within a certain radius can effectively prevent some from finding any job in the state. Such restrictions also discourage health care providers, especially primary care providers, from choosing to work in Rhode Island, where reimbursement rates are already lower and caseloads are higher than in surrounding states and in specialty practices.

 

 

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