Nurse practitioners are looking to get more authority in the workplace with a bill that will be discussed in a Florida House select committee meeting Monday.
The proposal addresses the shortage of health care physicians as well as the ability for nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances and provide care without physician supervision.
According to Susan Lynch, the vice chairman of public affairs for Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners, many of the restrictions on nurse practitioners should be lifted to improve health care in Florida.
Lynch said that patients don’t have access to basic primary care needs and nurse practitioners are unable to help because of legislative restrictions.
Nurse practitioners receive four to five years of direct clinical training and are tested by national certification exams that should qualify nurse practitioners to prescribe medications for their patients, Lynch said.
“The current laws are very outdated and they need to be modernized in order for nurse practitioners to be able to meet those needs,” she said.
Lynch also mentioned that Florida is the only state that a nurse practitioner cannot prescribe controlled substances or obtain a Drug Enforcement Administration license.
“There are no safety or quality reasons why an advanced practice registered nurse cannot have a DEA license or prescribe those medications,” Lynch said. “But there is evidence from 49 other states that they are safe.”
According to the Department of Justice, while other states do allow nurse practitioners to obtain DEA licenses, several do not allow them to prescribe the strongest categories of controlled narcotics, such as morphine or amphetamines.
Erin VanSickle, vice president of communications for Florida Medical Association, believes the bill will do more harm than good.
“Florida is currently experiencing a physician shortage and a nursing shortage in our state,” VanSickle said. “In order to maintain access to quality patient care, the FMA believes that there is a different and better way than by covering it up with another problem.”
VanSickle said the bill would unleash tens of thousands of new practitioners in the Florida community with the ability to prescribe narcotics.
Florida Medical Association has proposed what VanSickle said she believes is a better solution: a five-point plan which includes targeted funding for family practice residencies and reimbursing family physicians serving Medicaid patients.
“There are many different ways we can expand access for care to Florida patients,” VanSickle said. “We just don’t think [the bill] is the most appropriate one.”