TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- One of Florida's largest nursing organizations is opposing legislation aimed at punishing those who wrongfully claim the title "doctor."
The bill, SB 612, would make health care practitioners who aren't licensed medical doctors or osteopathic physicians accountable if they refer to themselves, orally or in print, as a doctor. The measure also applies to the abbreviation "Dr." If healthcare practitioners present themselves as a doctor, they could be charged with a third degree felony.
Representatives from Florida's Nursing Association, in a release issued Friday, say the bill distracts from a much bigger issue -- health care reform.
"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.
As Florida implements the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act, FNA representatives say the expansion of medicaid and the development of online insurance marketplaces 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."
Under the measure, nurses with doctorates, as Fuller seeks to be, are among those who would have to explain to patients and the public that they aren't medical doctors -- or face criminal charges. The third degree felony charges linked to SB 612 are an upgrade from previous Florida law, which punishes those who deceive others into thinking they're licensed to practice medicine. Law-breakers face only a misdemeanor charge under the old legislation.
SB 612 is sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton). The House version is expected to be filed by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers).
For more information on FNA, visit www.floridanurse.org.