Florida House approves greater autonomy for nurse practitioners

Nurses and nursing organizations rally at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Credit: Issac Morgan

A bill allowing nurse practitioners, sometimes referred to as advanced practice registered nurse, or APRNs, to practice independently of doctors passed on a 94-12 vote in the Florida House on Friday.

The legislation (HB 607) has been a major priority for House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami-Dade County Republican, who has expressed public support since the bill was filed in November 2019.

Oliva selected a nurse practitioner from Naples as the “doctor of the day” on the first day of the 2020 legislative session, as the Florida Phoenix previously reported.

“We deeply appreciate Speaker Jose Oliva’s leadership,” Crystal Stickle, interim president of the Florida Hospital Association, said Friday in a written statement. “This legislation is a shining example of innovative, forward-thinking ideas that will increase Floridians’ access to the high-quality care they need.”

The bill would authorize autonomous practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Its sponsors include Health Quality Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cary Pigman, a Republican who represents Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee, and parts of St. Lucie counties.

Other advocates have argued that nurse practitioners should be allowed to practice to their full extent of education and training, citing a shortage of health care professionals in Florida.

“This good public policy will provide more Floridians with access to safe and quality care by removing the barriers to allow APRNs to practice to the full extent of their education and training,” said Nicole Livanos, a spokesperson for the Floridians Unite for Health Care, representing nurses in Florida.

“In Florida, we have more than 32,000 licensed APRNs who are ready to roll up their sleeves and help increase access to care for all, but especially in our state’s 30 rural communities that have a shortage of health care professionals,” she said.

The Florida Medical Association, representing doctors, has opposed this and similar proposals for years. FMA representatives did not respond to a request from the Phoenix for comment.

Similar legislation (SB 1676) is pending on the Senate floor. Its sponsor is State Sen. Ben Albritton, a Republican representing DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee counties and parts of Charlotte, Lee, Polk counties.