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House proposal would grant independence, prescribing authority to highly trained nurses


The House is out with a sweeping proposal for expanding the scope of practice for highly trained nurses, allowing them to operate independently and prescribe controlled substances for the first time in state history.

The proposed committee bill, which will get its first hearing at Monday's meeting of the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation, is already controversial. The powerful Florida Medical Association, representing doctors, says it will oppose the legislation.

The measure would allow highly trained nurses to apply for a license to practice independently after they have three years of experience working under a physician's supervision. Proponents say it will help address the state's doctor shortage and point out that Florida has some of the most restrictive scope of practice regulations in the nation.

But opponents who do not want certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives and certified nurse practioners to operate independently say patients will be safer and receive better care if a medical doctor with more extensive training and skills has the final authority. The House proposal would also allow highly trained nurses to sign death certificates and other paperwork that currently requires a physician's signature.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said she will eventually file a companion bill in the Senate but is waiting to see how the House proposal is received. Grimsley said she envisions a more restrained bill that would allow nurse practioners to prescribe medicines and operate independently after five years of experience under a supervising physician.

Grimsley said she doesn't anticipate that her bill will address nurse anesthetists because the focus should be on addressing the state's shortage of primary care providers.