As lawmakers debate health care issues, including role of nurse anesthetists, status quo is no longer acceptable

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January should be declared Health Care Issues Month or something like that.

For starters, committee weeks have officially kicked-off for this year and the House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation will jumpstart the discussion surrounding Florida’s health care workforce crisis on Friday. Not to mention, there is the second annual Florida Health Care Affordability Summit at the end of the month, courtesy of the Foundation of AIF, from which I will be live blogging and tweeting. 

So here is my theory on the motto for health care policy this coming session based on a lot of feedback from Tallahassee: status quo is no longer acceptable. 

With more people getting health insurance, more people will be scheduling surgeries, getting checkups, undergoing procedures they had previously put on hold, etc.  The entire landscape of the health care system is slated for change, so naturally, the regulatory structure that oversees such system (and what is allowed within) must follow suit. 

Friday is the first committee meeting that will address the issue of Florida’s health care workforce. Here’s a BOLD prediction: there will be a lot of talk about a shortage of qualified health care providers and specialized nurse practitioners when the influx of health care patients rush to the doctor. 

We have also heard lately that because of the Affordable Health Care Act, hospitals and the ER will see more patients coming through their doors, not less. So let’s think about that and what that means for the number of surgeries, emergency procedures and the overall quality and type of care patients will need to receive at the local hospital. 

Why would we keep our auxiliary practitioners hamstrung and benched instead of allowing them to put their skills to practical use and help alleviate this crisis, as opposed to just letting this crisis worsen? For example, why wouldn’t we allow specialized nurse practitioners to provide better and more immediate care for patients, instead of keeping them entirely dependent on physicians, who are already thinning out in comparison to the number of patients currently (and projected to be) seeking care? 

If your thoughts while reading the above immediately go to the issue of “quality of care,” well then, by all means, let’s talk about that too. Keeping with the example of specialized nurse practitioners, with more surgeries and procedures comes a greater need for anesthesia care. And, with a greater need for anesthesia care comes a greater need for anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists, who can both independently administer such anesthesia, right? 

Wrong. 

In Florida, nurse anesthetists (who, as national studies have shown time and time again, can deliver the exact same type and quality of anesthesia care as an anesthesiologist) are not allowed to do so without physician supervision. Nurse anesthetists have the training, ability and proven track record to alleviate a heavy burden on our health care system, but are simply not allowed to do so. 

The demand for practitioners and level of care is going nowhere but up, but the supply is simply not there. Now, with actual patient outcome and quantifiable data supporting the fact that allowing auxiliary practitioners, such as specialized nurse practitioners, to provide care independently does not compromise the quality of care given – we can continue to move this issue to completion. 

The creation of a select committee specially dedicated to tackling this critical issue is a good sign that finally, we will hear conversations that will seek to crack this thing and provide Floridians with an adequate amount of care givers to meet their needs.  I am liking the bold discussions and movements in the House, where an issue that in the past has fallen on deaf ears is now being ushered through a real review. 

But why haven’t others jumped up and embraced this and said this is a logical next step? I am all ears, people.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.