Majority of Floridians oppose expanding powers of nurse practitioners, says new poll

in Uncategorized by

Six in ten Florida voters oppose nurse practitioners performing medical procedures without a supervising physician, according to a new poll released by the Florida Medical Association.

The FMA study is in response to a proposal in the Legislature spearheaded by State Rep. Cary Pigman, which would allow advanced nurse practitioners additional responsibilities, and freeing them from treatment guidelines prescribed by licensed physicians. 

When asked, 61 percent of respondents said they are opposed to expanding the treatment powers of Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners. Only 32 percent approved.

Voter/Consumer Research conducted the statewide poll of 606 likely Florida voters from February 1-5. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent.

Respondents also did not like the idea of nurses and other health care workers who are not physicians prescribing narcotics (including painkillers). Nearly eight in ten (79 percent) opposed it, with only 19 percent approving.  

A majority of Floridians are happy with their healthcare, the survey found.

Over three-quarters of voters (77 percent) say they are satisfied with the healthcare they personally receive. Even more (79 percent) are satisfied with access to health care.

FMA representatives assert the poll results are proof that Floridians are generally satisfied with their access to health care, and are distrustful of proposals that would  permit untrained practitioners’ to prescribe narcotics independently and without any physician supervision.

The controversy between doctors and lawmakers arose as part of Florida’s looming primary-care physician shortage, a problem that would mostly affect rural parts of the state.

In a 2013 study by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 29.4 percent of Florida physicians were aged 60 and older as of 2012, well above the 26.5 percent national average. By 2025, it is very likely many of those doctors will retire, scale back hours or otherwise leave the workforce.

Florida is not training enough new doctors to replace them, and they are doing so at a rate slower than most other states, according to the AAMC.

The state had 24.7 students in medical/osteopathic school, with 19 physician residents in training per 100,000 residents, far below the national averages of 29.1 students and 26.8 residents.

Recognizing the pending shortage of doctors and nurses, the FMA insists that expanding the poer of nurses is not the answer.

The FMA, who represents more than 20,000 physicians on issues of legislation and regulatory affairs, proposes a 5-point plan — available at www.flmedical.org  — to address access to care issues.

Suggestions include expanded telemedicine, fair Medicaid reimbursement, forgiving student loans to family practice doctors, increased funding for residency slots, and expanding the collaboration between Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners and physicians. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.