I have been a certified registered nurse anesthetist, a type of advanced practice registered Nurse (APRN), for more than 20 years and am a retired Commander in the US Navy Nurse Corps, where I provided anesthesia care to service members and their families, U.S. Department of Defense employees, and members of Congress. While on active duty, I administered anesthesia care to service members who were injured during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Horn of Africa. I have been the sole anesthesia provider on three aircraft carriers.
APRNs play an important role in Florida’s healthcare system. Whenever you have visited the hospital, a doctor’s office, or another healthcare facility, it’s likely you have interacted with an APRN -- and you might not have even realized it.
Florida currently has more than 34,000 licensed APRNs who work in all types of practice settings. They provide essential primary care services and perform regional anesthesia, which includes peripheral nerve blocks, spinals, and epidurals. They also provide other anesthesia care, deliver babies, and much more.
I recently had the privilege to stand with Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Cary Pigman at the state capitol in Tallahassee to call for the passage of important legislation they have filed that would modernize Florida’s laws and allow APRNs to practice to the full extent of their education and training.
Senate Bill 972 and House Bill 821 would allow highly qualified APRNs to practice independently, without physician supervision and protocols.
Historically, our laws did not contemplate the sophisticated education and training APRNs receive today. Twenty-two other states, as well as the District of Columbia, have already removed barriers to allow APRNs to practice independently. It’s time for Florida to do the same.
As Florida’s population continues to grow and healthcare costs continue to rise, we must look for innovative ways to modernize the healthcare delivery system in Florida.
With this legislation, we can increase access and allow APRNs to provide safe, cost-effective, quality healthcare to patients.
While we all agree the safety and wellbeing of patients is paramount, there are many independent studies which show APRNs can safely and effectively provide some of the same healthcare services as physicians. In fact, a recent report by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury found that APRNs and other highly trained professionals “can safely and effectively provide some of the same healthcare services as physicians, in addition to providing complementary services.” The report went on to recommend that states “consider changes to their scope-of-practice statutes to allow all healthcare providers to practice to the top of their license, utilizing their full skill set.”
Using APRNs would also prevent gaps in access to services in thousands of communities, especially in rural, inner-city and other medically underserved areas, while reducing the cost of health care and addressing increasing demand for health care services.
We urge the Florida Senate to take up this very important legislation. Patients’ interests are best served by a healthcare system in which many different types of qualified professionals are available, accessible and working together -- collaboratively.
Debra Diaz is a CRNA, an adjunct professor at Barry University and a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists board of directors.