AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Nurse Practitioners hosted a panel with state legislators on Friday, March 6 at the State Capitol.

On the agenda: hot topics in healthcare in the upcoming legislative session.

But first, at the forefront of the discussion, was the current preparation level for the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think Texas nurse practitioners are about as prepared as you can be for something that’s so unprecedented,” nurse practitioner Jessica Peck said.

Nurses have been trained to treat infectious diseases, but treating the coronavirus is not the main concern.

“The difficulty is going to be access to those providers and access to those laboratory exams and making sure people are quarantined as they need to be,” Representative Donna Howard said.

The nurses themselves might need to be quarantined after treating an infected patient, which would limit how many people they’re able to care for.

The nurses themselves might need to be quarantined after treating an infected patient.

“Until we know more about the coronavirus, I think quarantine is going to be a common practice, it’s very easy to do and really quarantine has such a scary sound, but really what it means is just staying in your house until we’re sure that you’re not infectious,” Peck said.

The problem with this: it would limit how many people the nurses are able to care for.

“We’re concerned about the systemic impacts and what will happen. That makes nurses nervous,” Peck said.

It’s especially concerning because nurses are already in short supply across the state.

Representative Stephanie Klick explained, “Recent statistics show that we’re going to have about a 60,000 nurse shortage in the next 10 years.”

A possible solution could be reducing regulations for advanced nurse practitioners.

“The only opposition is coming from physician groups,” Howard said.

These physicians have gone through some 15,000 hours of training, and want to protect their practices.

Nonetheless, both Howard and Klick will continue to push for legislation to reduce regulations.

“Having advanced practice nurses able to practice to the full extent of their license and training would open up greater possibilities in the rural communities,” Howard said.

“We need to take off the handcuffs, and let professionals do what they were trained to do,” Klick said.

Other topics discussed at the panel included Medicaid, using telehealth in rural areas and education for nurse practitioners.