RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a bill allowing most nurse practitioners to gain the autonomy to practice without a physician’s oversight.

Northam’s spokesman said Thursday the governor had signed the measure sponsored by Republican Del. Roxann Robinson.

A statement from the Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners called it a “spectacular moment.”

The bill allows most types of nurse practitioners with five years of full-time clinical experience to earn approval to practice without maintaining a contract with a supervising physician.

The bill’s supporters said the contracts were a burden and doing away with them could expand access to care.

The measure drew opposition from physicians, who raised patient safety and quality-of-care concerns.

More than half the state’s affected nurse practitioners have already met the five-year experience requirement.

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