TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida may soon join 30 other states giving advanced nurses the ability to treat patients without a physician over their shoulders.
Lawmakers in both chambers passed House Bill 607 Wednesday morning — sending it to Governor Ron DeSantis.
If he signs, advanced practice nurses, or APRNs, could admit, care for or discharge patients from medical facilities. The profession would no longer need a physician's oversight, which can be a costly expense for nurse practitioners working independently.
Supporters believe the greater autonomy will allow advanced nurses to fill a medical need in rural communities.
Sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow, said he expected care in the state to improve if the governor signs.
“This is largely how medicine is happening today," he said. "We're giving credibility to the evolution of medicine that is happening today-- this is the right small step forward.”
The passage brings Stan Whittaker one step closer to striking out on his own. The North Florida nurse practitioner is planning to do exactly what lawmakers hope, start a practice in a place where receiving medical care would normally require a long-distance drive.
“We now have a pathway for me to become an independent nurse practitioner," he said. "I don’t have to have a signature on a piece of paper saying I can work.”
Though studies in other states show care quality hasn’t dropped with the passage of similar measures, a few legislators worry that’s exactly what will happen.
Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, warned misdiagnosis and wrong treatments might be on the horizon.
"That old adage, 'do no harm' is absolutely key," she said. “I believe this bill goes way too far and will do a significant amount of harm.”
There are safety measures in the bill, such as clear education and experience requirements for APRNs to qualify.
Even so, last legislative session, DeSantis said he wouldn’t support the legislation— siding with opponents. He may veto it if his position hasn't softened.