More than 6 million Floridians live in areas where there is a shortage of primary care physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That makes Florida last in the nation in access to primary care.
To address that issue, Jacksonville University and Jacksonville-based Availity, the nation’s largest real-time health information network, are launching a partnership that creates a new pathway for Nurse Practitioners to close the primary care gap.
With a $100,000 donation from Availity to establish the Availity Nurse Practitioner Scholars Fund at Jacksonville University, qualified NPs may begin to earn the educational credits needed to offer independent primary care without an attending doctor, as outlined under a new law in the state of Florida.
“At Jacksonville University, we’re working every day to transform the health of our communities by educating and training exceptional healthcare professionals,” said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost. “With Availity’s generous support, we can help up to 1,000 nurse practitioners advance their education and establish their own primary care practice.”
Availity CEO Russ Thomas added, “Florida has the largest shortage of primary care health professionals in the country. Aging patients, retiring physicians, and the current pandemic are creating a perfect storm for access to care, and change needs to happen now. Since philanthropy is a big part of who we are at Availity, we believe that change starts with us.”
The Availity Nurse Practitioner Scholars Fund at Jacksonville University will help NPs earn the Continuing Education Credits required for obtaining a license for independent practice under House Bill 607, which Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law earlier this year. HB 607 allows NPs to offer primary care without an attending physician if NPs can demonstrate the following requirements have been met within the past five years:
- 3,000 hours of practice experience under the supervision of a physician
- either three credit hours of graduate-level coursework or 45 continuing education units (CEU) in advanced pharmacology and differential diagnosis
Under the leadership of Provost Dr. Chris Sapienza and Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences Dean Dr. Mark Tillman, Jacksonville University will grant scholarships on a first come, first served basis and will offer the 45 continuing education units (CEU) needed to qualify for independent practice through self-paced, 100% online modules.
Increasing the number of NPs practicing independently will help residents receive needed acute or chronic condition care sooner, potentially preventing a much more costly emergency department visit or hospitalization. Costs would be further reduced by enabling NPs to deliver care alone instead of with a physician supervisor.
“Nurse practitioners play an invaluable role in delivering patient-centered care in our healthcare system, so it is highly gratifying to see such a program that recognizes our contribution,” said Vernon Langford, MSN, APRN, president of the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners. “We celebrate the many newly independent nurse practitioners that will emerge from this program who will go on to deliver high-quality care and improve outcomes for the millions of patients who need them.”
Qualified nurse practitioners can learn more about the CEUs and apply for the scholarship at www.ju.edu/availity. Users of Availity’s Provider Engagement Portal can find additional information on the homepage under “News and Announcements.”