Expanded scope of practice for highly trained Florida nurses gets first committee approval

February 19, 2014 

A proposal that has been described as one of the most sweeping changes in history to Florida law regulating medical providers received bipartisan support Tuesday it its first committee vote.

The House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation agreed to officially introduce the proposed committee bill after another three-hour long meeting filled with testimony from workers on both sides of the issue. Highly trained nurses argued they have they skills to work independently to address the state's growing health care demands while medical doctors lobbied for the status quote.

In the end, all but two members of the committee approved the bill with a one person from each party casting "no" votes. Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, has been one of the most vocal members on the committee asking questions and casting doubt on giving nurses more independence and prescribing authority. Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, indicated that she voted against the bill out of protest. If the House Republican leadership was truly worried about addressing the state's health care needs, they would support Medicaid expansion, she said.

The bill now will receive a number and be referred to other House committees. Members of the committee who voted "yes" said they did so hoping there will be changes along the way, such as additional training and background checks for highly trained nurses before they are allowed to practice without a doctor's supervision.

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