A controversial bill allowing advanced-registered nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances narrowly passed a Senate committee Tuesday, but with some major differences between the Senate and House versions that extend the responsibilities of the highly trained nurses.
In a 5-4 vote, the Senate Health Policy Committee approved the measure sponsored by Sen. Denise Grimsley.
The House version gives sweeping new authority to nurse practitioners, removing the requirement that they work under the supervision of a physician. The Senate bill is more restrictive, keeping the physician-supervision requirement in place.
Advanced nurse practitioners already prescribe various drugs, but not controlled substances. Part of the Senate gives nurse practitioners that power.
“It (the current requirement) is frustrating,” said Stuart nurse practitioner Laurie Grissman. “It is a barrier to care, and it is hurting our patients.”
The expanded powers are required in rural areas such as Glades County, Grimsley said, which has limited access to health-care providers. Grimsley lives in nearby Highlands County.
“I want to tell you where the need is,” said Grimsley. “And it is right in my backyard.”
But a few lawmakers, such as Sen. Eleanor Sobel, whose husband is a dermatologist, have doubts about nurse practitioners having the ability to prescribe controlled substances without physician supervision.
“If you want to be a nurse practitioner with an independent practice,” Sobel said, “You need to go to medical school.”
The issue has launched extensive lobbying — on both sides of the issue — during this year’s session.
Hospitals, nursing organizations, the managed-care industry, and major business groups support nurse practitioners receiving expanded powers.
Florida Medical Association, the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association and other physician groups are fighting the proposals.
Along with Grimsley, the supporters of the bill were Sens. Jeff Brandes, Oscar Braynon, Anitere Flores, and Rene Garcia. In opposition were Sobel; committee Chair Aaron Bean, and Sens. Bill Galvano and Arthenia Joyner.