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Advanced practice nurses continue push for expanded practice

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(Shutterstock via CNN)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every Tuesday and Wednesday, advanced registered nurse practitioners are walking the halls of the Florida Capitol, looking for sympathetic lawmakers.

Florida is in the minority when it comes to states allowing nurses to practice without a doctor's supervision, but they are facing an uphill battle.

Advanced registered nurse practitioners come to the Capitol by the hundreds each week. Their goal is change the law that requires doctors to supervise them.

It’s expensive.

“Up to $50,000 a year,” said Naples ARNP Doreen Cassarino.

“That’s before they even open their doors,” added Davie ARNP Vicky Stonegale.

And nurse practitioners said supervision doesn’t mean what many think it does.

“They don’t need to sign our charts, sign our orders. We practice, basically, independently,” said Fort Meyers ARNP Arlene Wright.

Doctors sign off on what care the nurses can provide.

Allowing the nurses who have wither a masters degree or a PHD to practice on their own is a top priority of House Speaker José Oliva.

“There is no data that in any way supports that this is in any way dangerous and would not be effective,” said Oliva.

The legislation may or may not reduce the cost of medicine, but it will improve access.

Sponsors have said advanced registered nurse practitioners will go a long way in helping patients in rural counties get care without having to travel to larger cities.

There is no Senate companion.

“When I was running my husband’s medical practice, we had two nurse practitioners as part of our practice,” said Sen. Gayle Harrell.

Harrell is the Chair of the Senate Health Policy Committee.

“But their education is not the same as that of a physician,” said Harrell.

David Hebert, the CEO of the ARNP’s national office, said the senator is wrong.

“They do the same things a primary care physician can do. They diagnose, they treat and they prescribe in all 50 states,” said Hebert.

Because of such strong feelings on both sides, the legislation will likely to go down to the wire and be part of any end of session horse trading.