SB 612/HB 805 is a direct assault on advanced practice nurses who earn doctorate degrees, registered nurses who wish to earn advanced degrees, and the academic institutions with doctoral programs for nurses.
SB 612/HB 805 sets the penalty for nurses – and only nurses – who use a rightfully earned academic title as a third-degree felony, which is the same punishment for certain burglaries, neglect of an elderly or disabled adult, and animal cruelty resulting in death. A felony is punishable by fines, jail time, and loss of professional license for a minimum of five years.
State law already makes it a crime for individuals who lead the public to believe that one is a medical doctor or engaged in the licensed practice of medicine without holding a valid, active license. The penalty for this offense, however, is only a first-degree misdemeanor.
Under current law, all health care practitioners face disciplinary action from their state professional board if they fail to identify themselves to the patient – orally or in writing, such as a name badge – by the type of license the practitioner possesses. This ensures that patients know who is providing their care.
SB 612/HB 805 serves to distract legislators from important discussions about the future of Florida’s health care.
The legislation comes as lawmakers wrestle with statewide implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the expansion of Medicaid to more Floridians and the development of online insurance marketplaces – all of which drive up the demand for primary care services. In fact, PPACA specifically identifies nurse practitioners as among those who are considered primary care practitioners who can meet the primary care needs of patients. Several national studies support quality patient outcomes and cost-savings when patients are cared for by nurse practitioners, compared to physician care.
There is a demonstrated and crucial shortage of primary care physicians in Florida, and nurse practitioners have the education and experience to step in and work with physician partners to provide basic health care services so that every person has access to affordable care.
SB 612/HB 805 is insulting, arrogant, and creates a problem where none existed.
Advanced practice nurses are qualified health providers who complete rigorous, nationally accredited graduate education programs that enable them to safely diagnose and treat acute and chronic illnesses as well as provide preventative care to their patients.
When a nurse earns his or her PhD in nursing, it comes with the right to use a title accepted around the world. Psychologists, optometrists, podiatrists, chiropractors, and others who earn doctorates in health fields have the same right; as do individuals awarded a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degree.
Florida’s Medical Practice Act protects the title “physician” for the MD or DO who earns the required education credentials and then successfully passes licensure requirements.