Avert shortage by allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently

A calamitous physician shortage is near. Within about a decade, the nation will be 55,000 physicians short — just when our population of seniors will be at its highest. 

We can’t force more students into medical school; we can’t demand older doctors delay retirement. So, what can we do?

Allowing the 32,000-plus advanced practice registered nurses in Florida to work without the red tape and paternalism they operate under today is a start.

Nurse practitioners have to be supervised by doctors — yet many physicians who do this “supervision” never see the nurse practitioner’s patients, review a medical record, or set foot in the nurse practitioner’s practice. Physicians sometimes charge a hefty fee for this service.

As an emergency medicine physician, I’ve spent years working alongside APRNs as respected colleagues. So, why has it been so hard to pass legislation allowing APRNs to work without physician supervision? 

Enter the Florida Medical Association.

They oppose this idea and cite unsupported theories that, somehow, advanced practice nurses are less safe or effective, lack skills or knowledge, or dismiss them as lesser providers. But 30 states have rejected such ridiculous notions and already allow APRNs to practice fully.

All APRNs must have at least a master’s or doctoral degree and hold a certification from a recognized specialty board. They carry liability insurance and have more than 2,000 hours of supervised residency. The data show that APRNs provide equal or better care than their physician counterparts. 

Advanced practice medical professionals are not physicians, but they are highly qualified and capable of providing the routine primary care most people need during a visit to the doctor.

The truth must be told about APRN scope of practice. And if the truth hurts, there are more than 32,000 APRNs in Florida ready to diagnose and treat the pain.

Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Okeechobee, is a physician and sponsor of House Bill 607.

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