Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson is proposing legislation that would streamline outgoing service members into the ranks of Florida’s medical field, a move she contends would remedy the state’s ongoing shortage of health care workers.
Under the proposal (HB 131), a medically trained military veteran may work under the supervision of a licensed health care provider without subscribing to the state’s time-consuming certification process.
The benefits, she contends, are twofold: Veterans transfer immediately into gainful employment and providers are afforded a deeper pool of experienced applicants.
“This is a population that is very dear to my heart … I was trying to find a way to address those shortages, but also looking for ways to help our veterans,” the Hollywood lawmaker said.
Indeed, Florida’s medical system is shorthanded. What’s more, there are signs the situation will not improve without intervention. Florida may be short nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035, the Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis frequently notes staff shortages at press conferences throughout the state. Staffing agencies, he alleges, among other issues, often poach talent and resell the medical workers to the same hospitals at a higher cost.
Woodson found inspiration for the proposal at a Nashville press conference earlier this year. She began working on the legislation right away.
“Lord, behold,” she thought to herself at the conference. “How can this thing land in my lap like that?”
The proposal is modeled after a law passed recently in Virginia. Instituted in 2016, the Military Medics and Corpsmen Program pairs medically trained veterans with healthcare systems — allowing vets to earn an income and maintain medical skills while pursuing civilian credentials.
“We need to look at this bill as a win-win situation,” Woodson said.
Woodson’s push comes as DeSantis and lawmakers work to distinguish Florida as the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation. The Republican Governor signed a slew of veteran friendly proposals in June aimed at attracting and retaining transitioning service members in Florida.
The Call of Duty Endowment is a nonprofit that helps veterans find quality careers by raising awareness among civilian employers. In a statement to Florida Politics, the nonprofit described out-of-work veterans as a lost opportunity for all, especially hospitals amid the pandemic.
“We know that half of the veteran medics and corpsmen want to work in the civilian healthcare industry,” the organization said. “Yet, alarmingly, only half of those motivated individuals land jobs in the medical field due to state level bureaucratic barriers that keep them out. It’s common sense for state leaders in Florida and across the country to cut the red tape that keeps qualified candidates from filling the gaps in our overtaxed health care system.”
Joseph Griffin of Deltona is among the sea of nurses who retired from healthcare amid the pandemic. A former Army medic himself, Griffin suggested differences in the scope of practice as well as other medical training technicalities may pose a challenge to some veterans in a civilian setting.
Nevertheless, the twice deployed veteran contended the change could help bolster the ranks of Florida’s medical staff and may ease any transitional hurdles. Griffin is now the CEO and founder of Tax Deed Wolf Academy.
“I would say a soldier would excel much faster than a civilian because we’re used to dealing with adversity,” Griffin said.
Woodson’s proposal is slated to appear before four committees — the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee, the Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and the Health & Human Services Committee.
If signed into law, the measure would take effect July 1, 2022.
The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11.
Florida Politics Reporter Anne Geggis contributed to this report.