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Nurse Practitioners Face FMA

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Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nurse practitioners, who want more "autonomy," will tell a legislative committee Friday morning that granting it would benefit Floridians.

Primary-care physicians are in short supply, they'll say, so it's only sensible to make full use of nurses who have postgraduate training.

Physicians will tell the committee they agree on the need for new approaches to expand primary care. But the Florida Medical Association says "the best solution is physicians and nurses working collaboratively in a way that does not jeopardize patient safety."

Translation: Nurse practitioners want the right to practice out on their own, not just as a staff member in a doctor's practice, while the FMA thinks that would be unsafe.

FMA has drawn up a chart that shows how many years of training each health profession requires, and says medical school is four years compared to ARNPs' 1.5 to three years. Doctors then have a residency of usually three years, while "there is no equivalent for ARNPs," FMA says.

Starting at 9 a.m., the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation will hear presentations on how other states are using advanced practice nurses. Then there will be a panel discussion that includes physicians, nurses and hospital executives.

There are about 19,000 nurse practitioners in Florida. (In this state, they are licensed as Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners, or ARNPs. In some states, they are Advanced Practice Nurses, or APNs).

Scheduled for three hours, the meeting will be streamed online by The Florida Channel.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, was created to address what legislators say is a significant physician shortage in Florida, especially in primary care.

Currently, Florida does not recognize the nurses with advanced degrees and training as primary care providers. And it is the only state that prohibits nurse practitioners from prescribing controlled substances in any situation, according to select committee staff reports.

Last year, nurse practitioners failed to convince Florida legislators that they need increased authority to handle patients in the mental health system. This hearing, however, is designed to gather information about all health care workforce options, and not just the role of nurse practitioners, Oliva’s legislative assistant Chris Cantens said.

The committee will meet three more times prior to the regular session, which starts March 4.  

On Thursday, the Florida Medical Association sent out a release saying it hopes that the lawmakers will have "a true debate on the services that trained doctors and nurses should provide in appropriate settings."

FMA reiterated its five-point plan to address the shortage of doctors, which includes additional funding for family practice residency slots, fair pay for family doctors who treat Medicaid patients, new technologies such as telemedicine, and a student loan forgiveness program geared to primary care.

As for physician assistants and ARNPs, FMA called for "new business models that expand collaborative relationships."

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Reporter Mary Shedden can at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or email at shedden@wusf.orgContact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 (desk) or e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.