Measure giving nursing credits to combat medics nears approval in both chambers of the Legislature
Image via AP.

Army medic AP
‘They are just simply waiting for you to give the order.’

A proposal to give military personnel seeking nursing degrees credits for their real-world experience is now one stop from reaching the House floor.

Its Senate twin is even further along in the process.

The House Higher Education and Appropriations Subcommittee voted unanimously to advance a bill (HB 517) called the “Pathway for Military Combat Medics Act.”

As its name suggests, the bill would require Florida state universities, colleges and career schools to award nursing credits to combat medics commensurate with their practiced knowledge.

Florida could be short roughly 60,000 nurses by 2035 unless counteractive measures are taken, said Navarre Republican Rep. Joel Rudman, the bill’s sponsor and a physician in private life. The program this bill would create will help to address that expected deficiency, he said, and schools and students are already lining up to take advantage of it.

“I heard yesterday from the dean at Northwest Florida State College back in my district. They are planning on opening another 25 nursing school slots each year, depending on this bill passing. And that’s just one school,” he said.

“My medics currently at Duke Field, Hurlburt Field, Eglin Air Force Base, Whiting Field and Pensacola Naval Air Station — medics who manned the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq for your benefit — they are ready to assume their position on the front lines of America’s health care system, again for your benefit. They are just simply waiting for you to give the order.”

HB 517 calls for the Florida Articulated Coordinating Committee (ACC) to establish criteria for combat medics to earn higher education credits for their in-the-field experience by July 15. Recommendations would be due Dec. 1 to the Board of Governors and State Board of Education for approval.

Rudman said the program would likely be patterned after a pilot program now underway at the University of South Florida, which awards up to eight course credits.

Once committee members complete the work and receive an OK from the State University System and State Board of Education, the ACC has a year to put together a list of course equivalencies and the minimum credits or career education clock hours those courses must award. The list would then be updated annually.

Eligible service members would include “any and all combat medics within any of the branches across the military,” according to Miami Springs Republican Sen. Bryan Ávila, a lieutenant in the Florida Army National Guard and the sponsor of the Senate bill (SB 274).

The Senate version cleared its third and final committee hearing last week and has since been placed on the calendar for a second reading by the full Senate.

Senate staff determined the legislation will have no fiscal impact on the state. A House staff analysis said its financial impact on schools is “indeterminate.”

Both versions of the legislation have attracted bipartisan support while cruising through their respective chambers without a single “no” vote. Democratic Reps. Christopher Benjamin and Marie Woodson joined Republican Reps. Kimberly Berfield, Sam Killebrew, Vicki Lopez and Michelle Salzman as co-sponsors of the House bill. Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood and Republican Sens. Danny Burgess and Keith Perry signed onto the bill in the Senate.

HB 517 bill now heads to its third and final hearing at the Education and Employment Committee before reaching the floor.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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