Availity, a locally headquartered health information network, announced it is partnering with Jacksonville University to set up a scholarship fund for nurse practitioners who could practice independently under a new state law.
It also addresses Florida’s shortage of primary care physicians.
“Forty-eight percent of physicians in Florida are expected to retire in the next 10 years,” according to the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners. “Florida needs an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 primary care providers over the next five to 10 years. Medical schools cannot graduate enough physicians to meet the need.”
This year’s legislative session passed House Bill 607 that allows nurse practitioners — who have more responsibilities and educational requirements than registered nurses — to offer primary care without an attending physician.
However, they must meet the following requirements: have 3,000 clinical practice hours under the supervision of a physician, completion of three credit hours of graduate-level coursework or 45 continuing education units in differential diagnosis and advance pharmacology, and must obtain professional liability coverage of at least $100,000.
The bill states that once nurse practitioners are issued an autonomous/independent practice license, they have to be in primary practice, such as family medicine, general pediatrics, general internal medicine and certified nurse midwives.
“Nurse practitioners play an invaluable role in delivering patient-centered care in our health care system, so it is highly gratifying to see such a program that recognizes our contribution,” said Vernon Langford, president of the nurse practitioners association.
The scholarship fund is available across the state and will pay for two JU courses for about 1,000 recipients on a first-come, first-served basis.
The courses will be completely online and self-paced to accommodate for the busy work schedules of those in the primary care field and for people located in other cities.
Other states have already passed similar laws for nurse practitioners. With Florida not having this law, it created a barrier for practitioners wanting to move and practice here.
“It was disappointing that Florida was late to the game, but we’re glad it’s here,” said Molly Miles, vice president of marketing at Availity. “Nurse practitioners are underutilized and we hope this partnership will help them work to the best extent of their abilities.”
By allowing autonomous practice, it is projected to create 4,500 to 10,300 new jobs, reduce costs to state Medicaid program and virtually eliminate primary care shortages in the state, according to the nurse practitioners association.
“We have a strong health care program,” said Teresa Macgregor, executive director of graduate and professional studies at JU. “With this initiative we hope to reach and help those nurse practitioners get in the field.”
The Keigwin School of Nursing at JU has been around for 40 years and was created in 1981 due to a chronic shortage of nurses in Jacksonville.
Availity was launched in Jacksonville in 2001 as a joint venture between Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida) and Humana. The vision was to make it easier for health plans and providers to collaborate by streamlining processes among payers, according to its website.
Interested nurse practitioners can apply at ju.edu/availity. After the application is submitted, it will be reviewed to see if the applicant meets all certification requirements, and then the scholarship will be provided.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville-based health agency partners with JU for nurse practitioner incentives