“Doctor” title bill opposed by state’s largest nursing organization

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The state’s largest organization representing registered nurses today condemned legislation that forces nurses with doctorate degrees to explain to patients and the public that they are “not medical doctors” or face felony charges. 

SB 612 would require nurses who have attained their doctoral degrees and use the title of “Doctor” to state, in advertising or rendering care, that they are not medical doctors or osteopathic physicians.”Offenders” could face criminal charges of 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. 

“At best, this bill is sophomoric and serves to distract legislators from important discussions about the future of Florida’s health care,” said Dr. Mavra Kear, Ph.D., ARNP, President of the Florida Nurses Association, who is neither a medical doctor nor an osteopathic physician. 

The legislation comes as lawmakers wrestle with statewide implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid to more Floridians and the development of online insurance marketplaces – all of which will drive up the demand for primary care services. 

“There is a demonstrated physician shortage in Florida, and nurse practitioners have the education and experience to step in and help their physician partners provide basic health care services,” said FNA Executive Director, Willa Fuller, RN, who is seeking her doctorate but is neither a medical doctor nor an osteopathic physician. “Instead, certain physicians choose to focus their energy on a problem that simply doesn’t exist.” 

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. 

All health care practitioners face disciplinary hearings from their professional board at the Department of Health 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 has. 

SB 612 is sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano. The House version is expected to be filed by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

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.