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Doctors, hospitals debate role of nurse practitioners

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Updated: 11/22/2013 6:23 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A quiet debate is raging leading up to the 2014 Florida Legislative Session. The role of nurse practitioners is being questioned by organizations representing doctors and hospitals.

Forty-eight other states have passed bills in recent years expanding the scope of nurse practitioners with an expected physician shortage in the next 10-15 years. Florida is one of two states that has not. Doctors said the state is traditionally script when it comes to scope of care. Experts with the Florida Hospital Association said there is "momentum" to get such a bill introduced at the State Capitol.

"(A limited role for nurse practitioners is) not so much preventing people from getting the care they need, it's preventing them from getting it in the most efficient manner," said Martha DeCastro, the vice president of nursing with the FHA.

But the Florida Medical Association believes expanding the role of nurse practitioners is not the best medical model for patients, considering practitioners have about four percent of the medical training hours of doctors. She believes practitioners work best and want to work in a physician-led team. Some practitioners operate independently but are supervised by physicians. DeCastro's organization would like that supervision lifted, along with allowing nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

"You really never know what you're getting day to day and room to room when you walk into an office, when you walk into see a patient, something as simple as a sore throat may be tonsillar cancer," said Twiggs.

Just last year the state scrapped a plan to give nurses more leeway when it came to administering the Baker Act.

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