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Politics

Nurse Practitioners to Rally Across Florida

February 23, 2011 - 6:00pm

Nurse practitioners across Florida will rally in five cities Saturday to press their case for additional work.

In a counterpoint to upcoming union demonstrations clamoring for more state spending, the Florida Association of Advanced Practice Nurses says that permitting nurses to practice at their full scope will save Florida hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Nurse practitioners -- who will gather for simultaneous rallies in Miami, Orlando, Sarasota, Tallahassee and Pensacola from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday -- support state Rep. Daphne Campbell's House Bill 4103, which would remove restrictions on their practice.

Currently, 48 states allow for full prescriptive authority by nurse practitioners, while 23 states do not require supervisory involvement by physicians.

Nurse practitioners cite a study by the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which estimated that Florida could save $339 million in primary-care costs by permitting them to practice at their full scope.

Annual savings of up to $44 million were also projected in the Medicaid account, which is the state's second biggest budget expenditure after K-12 education.
Susan Lynch, a nurse practitioner in Orlando, called the $44 million figure "very low."

"They don't account for savings from midwife services and diversions from emergency rooms," Lynch said.

"Most of the lawmakers we've talked to can't understand why the law hasn't changed. Access will increase and costs will go down," she said.

Stan Whittaker, chairman of the Florida Council of Advanced Practice Nurses, said there are about 15,000 nurse practitioners in the state.

"We're getting a lot of support from our registered-nurse colleagues and consumer groups," Whittaker said.

Campbell, D-Miami, a registered nurse, did not return a message left by Sunshine State News.

The Florida Medical Association, which represents physicians, opposes the nurse practitioner bill.

Timothy J. Stapleton, executive vice president of the Florida Medical Association, said, "Allowing unqualified nurses to play doctor and putting patient safety at risk is not in the best interest of our citizens.

Stapleton also dismissed claims that widening the scope of nurse practitioners' duties would save money.

The average physician's office creates 19 jobs -- and ensures patient safety. If we want to maximize impact, create jobs and increase access to care, the state of Florida should consider investing in graduate medical education and creating more residency slots so that we can keep physicians in the state," he said.

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or (772) 801-5341.

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