Nurses call for Florida Senate to pass bill removing physician supervision

'Let us do our job'
Posted at 8:58 PM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 20:58:57-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s nurses are hoping 2020 brings some new freedom.

A bill could allow those with enough training and experience to work without a doctor over their shoulder.

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Currently, advanced practice RN’s need a physician's approval to admit, manage and discharge patients. That’s despite some having years of education and sometimes decades of real-world knowledge.

“It’s like me having a driver’s license, but I have to get my wife’s permission to drive,” said Stan Whittaker APRN, with the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners. “That’s all we’re asking for. Let us do our job.”

Whittaker and his group are one of several associations pushing lawmakers this session to approve House Bill 607. It would allow APRNs to work independently without an MD’s supervision, something a majority of US states already allow.

Nurses would need to have 2,000 hours of supervised practice over two years and have finished a graduate-level course in pharmacology to qualify.

Whittaker says the change will not only help colleagues save money and work more efficiently, he believes it’ll provide patients in rural areas better access to care, where doctors are often few.

“We were the last state in the United States to get narcotic prescription authority,” Whittaker said. “We don’t need to be the last state in the US to become independent practice.”

The change has failed to get traction in the past. However, this year, the House bill is making progress — clearing two of its three committees with little resistance from legislators. GOP House Speaker Jose Oliva, a vocal supporter of the measure, addressed it in his opening remarks in the chamber last week.

“Members, 30 states have outgrown this backwards policy,” he said while speaking to Florida’s representatives. “It is high time we allow healthcare professionals to practice to the extent of their training.”

Physicians' associations have lined up against the legislation. As in years past, they’ve claimed cutting out experienced doctors will put patients at risk.

“I think this is bad for patient care,” Dr. David Farcy, with the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, told lawmakers in committee recently. “We need to work together, side by side. Not independently”

The Senate has yet to touch its version of the legislation. The bill still waiting to be scheduled for committee discussion, despite being filed in October.

Senate President Bill Galvano has said he had concerns about the bill. The Republican saying he was cautious about “letting certain groups achieve legislatively what was not achieved academically.”