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Lawmakers Renew Push To Give Nurse Practitioners More Independence in Florida

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

State lawmakers are hoping to increase access to health care by allowing nurse practitioners to treat patients without a doctor's supervision.

Rep. Cary Pigman (R-Sebring) and Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) joined members of the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetistsand the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network at a press conference in Tallahassee Wednesday to push their legislation.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) are trained to do some of the same things doctors and specialists do like deliver primary care or anesthesia. There are about 30,000 practicing in Florida, according to the latest state data.

The term applies to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), and Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS).

Current law requires they practice under supervision of a doctor.

Sen. Brandes said changing the rules to let them work independently would help meet the growing demand for health care, particularly when it comes to family medicine.

"Everybody would love to have a physician everywhere and always be able to see a physician at a moment's notice,” he said. “But anybody who has gone to the doctor recently or tried to be a new patient has recognized that there's sometimes a month, two-month wait to see the physician.”

“That’s going to be a larger and larger challenge as time goes on, as we're seeing physicians move into specialties, as we’re seeing a greater influx of people moving into the state of Florida, and as we see an aging population with more and more health care needs."

Twenty-two states, Washington D.C. and two U.S. territories allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians.

Similar legislation has failed in the past in Florida, largely due to opposition from doctors who argue these nurses are not trained at the same level as physicians.

Brandes said lawmakers will likely refine the legislation as deliberation ensues to account for high-risk procedures that may require the nurse receive additional assistance or oversight from physicians.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.