On April 28, 2014, the Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill giving nurse practitioners greater autonomy to diagnose and treat patients without doctors’ oversight. Connecticut is one out of 17 states and the District of Columbia to allow nurse practitioners to work independently of physicians. Similar measures are pending in several other states, including Florida.
The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill (CS/CS/HB 7113) on April 25, 2014, that expands the range of practice for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). The bill is expected to be heard in the Florida Senate soon. If passed, this policy shift would likely lead to profound changes in the way health care is practiced in Florida.
Details of the Florida Bill.
Currently, in Florida, nurse practitioners must work under the supervision of physicians. This bill would change the title of what are usually called nurse practitioners or advanced registered nurse practitioners. These are registered nurses who have post-college education, usually a master’s degree. The proposed change would retitle these health professionals to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).
These nurses would gain new authority under the bill, such as the ability to sign documents that now require a physician’s signature, and the opportunity to earn the title “Independent Advance Practice Registered Nurse” after a certain amount of training and experience. Nurse practitioners would no longer have to contract with and pay a “supervising” physician. Another somewhat controversial aspect of the bill is to allow these nurses to gain the authority to prescribe controlled substances.
Increasing Pressure to Pass Similar Bill.
The present Florida bill is being supported as a means to fulfill the anticipated growing need for medical services expected with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Especially in certain segments of the medical population, APRNs are already providing a large amount of this care, and the bill acknowledges and grants the authority for this.
With so many states, especially up in the northeast, agreeing to expand the scope of practice to qualified nurse practitioners, we wonder if this will have an effect on the Senate vote in Florida. Snow birds coming to Florida will be comfortable being treated by nurse practitioners and will expect the same level of care when they come down to the Sunshine State.
Opposition May Kill the Bill.
The opposition to this effort is strong and vocal, with the various state medical associations leading the way. For these groups, the issue is one of preservation of the practice of medicine as the domain of the physician. They are accepting of medical practice by physician “extenders,” but not by “providers” who are not physicians. The members of these opposition groups are a formidable force, respected in their communities and able to make significant political contributions. These are not groups that many legislators would want to rankle.
However, a review of the history of medicine in the United States shows that this is a battle the medical doctors are likely to lose. Similar arguments have been made in the past when other types of health care practitioners have sought legal authority to practice their professions. Immediately coming to mind are osteopathic physicians (D.O.s), chiropractic physicians (D.C.s) and midwives (CMs) to name a few. Some have had to bring antitrust lawsuits to obtain relief.
Be sure to check this blog regularly for updates to this story.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent registered nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists, midwives and licensed practical nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.
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What are your thoughts on the bill? Do you think nurse practitioners should have more autonomy? Or do you believe nurse practitioners should be supervised by physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Altimari, Daniela. “State Moves to Give Nurses Independence From Doctors.” The Courant. (April 28, 2014). From: http://www.courant.com/health/connecticut/hc-aprn-bill-20140428,0,7595375.story
Catala, Paul. “Bill Giving Nurses More Authority Passes House.” Highlands Today. (April 28, 2014). From: http://highlandstoday.com/hi/local-news/bill-giving-nurses-more-authority-passes-house-20140429/
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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