Nurse Practitioners Rally, Hoping to Write Prescriptions
Around the State
Health care continued to dominate the Florida Legislature Wednesday -- this time with nurse practitioners demanding to be able to write prescriptions.
More than 300 nurse practitioners rallied at the Capitol to lobby for legislation that would allow them to prescribe medicines. Florida and Alabama are the only two states in the nation that don't allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled medicine.
Bills in the House and Senate would change the law. But, neither has much of a chance of passing during the session.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Republican Mike Bennett of Bradenton, has not been placed on a committee calendar. The same is true of the House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata, R-Miami.
These bills drew upon a Senate Health Care Committee report that recommended allowing advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) to write prescriptions. ARNPs are required to hold a master's degree and education on drug prescriptions.
Dr. Christopher Salso, president of the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network, is pointing fingers at the Florida Medical Association and two legislators for blocking this reform.
“The Florida Medical Association is protecting its pocketbook, not patients, when it opposes giving qualified nurse practitioners the appropriate prescriptive authority to help patients,” Salso said.
The FMA responded in a statement, saying, "There is no such thing as a nurse practitioner who is 'qualified' to prescribe controlled substances.”
The FMA said, “The ability to prescribe controlled substances is limited to medical doctors for a reason: to protect patient safety. Physicians go to medical school to learn how to prescribe controlled substances safely and without interacting with other medications. ARNPs do not.”
The FNPN also pointed to Rep. Nick Thompson, R-Fort Myers, and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, for blocking attempts to allow nurses to write prescriptions.
Speaking to the nurses who came to the Capitol, Bennett bristled, saying Gaetz and Thompson were in the way. Bennett brought up Thompson’s ambitions to be a judge and said that Thompson’s obstructing the legislation showed he was not up to the task. Bennett asked the cheering crowd, “How can you possibly be a judge if you don't hear both sides?”
Rep. Yolly Roberson, D-Miami, a strong supporter of the nurses and an RN herself, urged the nurses to continue to push the issue. Said Roberson, “There are two things that legislators understand -- money and numbers -- and we have both.”
Referring to efforts to block nurse practitioners from writing prescriptions, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, said, “This foolishness has to stop.”
Saying she understood nursing issues due to her mother’s 50 years as a nurse, Rehwinkel Vasilinda said, “Nurses and nurse practitioners need to have more a hand in this nation’s, and certainly in Florida’s, health care.”
The FMA countered, “Florida lawmakers are working to protect patients from those who would attempt to prescribe narcotics to Floridians without the training required by Florida law, and that is the safe, accountable and common-sense thing to do.”
Supporters of the legislation conceded that there was little hope of their measures passing. Roberson conceded as much but urged the nurses to continue the fight in years to come. She also said if she is elected to Congress, she will continue the fight up in Washington.
Supporters of the nurse practitioners insist that time is on their side. There are more than 13,000 nurse practitioners in Florida and that number continues to grow.
“The argument that nurse practitioners don’t have adequate training has been proven false in 48 other states,” said Bennett.
Salso insisted, “We are the solution to tomorrow’s health care.”
The FMA said, “ARNPs do not have the training nor the qualifications necessary to prescribe these medications. If they want to prescribe controlled substances, they can go to medical school and receive the proper training to do so.”
Kevin Derby, a reporter for Sunshine State News, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 727-0859.