On July 1, 2016, a new law took effect permitting advanced registered nurse practitioners (“ARNPs”) and physician assistants (“PAs”) to have full prescribing privileges in Florida. Although the new law is now on the books, the law delayed the implementation of the broader prescribing authority of ARNPs and PAs until January 1, 2017. Nevertheless, this represents a major change for Florida health care providers.
Previously, unlike most states, Florida did not permit ARNPs and PAs to prescribe controlled substances (i.e., Schedule II, Schedule III and Schedule IV drugs). Under the new law, ARNPs and PAs may now do so within the scope of their training and licensure. Prescribing ARNPs and PAs must comply with all of the same requirements applicable to prescribing physicians, such as meeting the appropriate standard of care, conducting a complete medical history and physician examination prior to prescribing controlled substances and appropriately documenting the patient’s medical record. In addition, prescribing ARNPs and PAs must still practice under an established supervisory protocol with a physician and, like physicians, must be duly licensed to prescribe controlled substances. The new law does not, however, permit ARNPs and PAs to prescribe controlled substances in a registered pain-management clinic, which still can only be done by physicians.
This legislation, which was sought by ARNPs and PAs for years, is intended, at least in part, to address rising concerns about a shortage of health care providers, particularly in rural areas. The new law may also allow physicians to achieve greater efficiencies in patient care through expanded use of ARNP and PA services. Physicians, ARNPs and PAs should familiarize themselves with the new requirements governing ARNP and PA prescribing and review their supervisory protocols to ensure they are in compliance with the new law.