Legislature gives final salute to ‘Pathway for Military Combat Medics Act’
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Army medic AP
Florida is projected by 2025 to have 60,000 fewer nurses than it needs. This bill could help solve the problem.

Military personnel with combat medic experience could soon have an easier time transitioning into a related career, thanks to a bill that just cleared its last hurdle in the Legislature.

The measure (SB 274) is called the “Pathway for Military Combat Medics Act.” True to its title, it would require Florida state universities, colleges and career schools to award nursing credits to people who worked as medics in the U.S. Armed Forces commensurate with their practical knowledge.

The bill’s sponsor, Miami Springs Republican Sen. Bryan Ávila, a lieutenant in the Florida Army National Guard, said the bill would address two key needs: easing the reentry of some military members into civilian life and addressing the Sunshine State’s growing nursing shortage.

“We’re certainly hoping to provide those opportunities to our servicemembers while at the same time ensuring we do our best to take care of the shortfall we’re seeing in the health care industry right now,” he said.

During development of the bill, Ávila’s office met more than 30 times with lobbyists representing groups and companies including the Florida Health Care Association, Southern Healthcare Management LLC and the Florida branch of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Their talks proved beneficial; SB 274 cleared both the Senate and House unamended and with unanimous support.

Navarre Republican Rep. Joel Rudman, a doctor in private life who carried the measure’s House companion (HB 517), called it a “real no-brainer.”

“We have a nursing shortage, and we have specialized members of our military who are willing to help,” he said. “We have service members who have served on the front lines in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, who are willing to serve on the front lines of America’s health care. They are simply waiting for you to give them the order. I say, let the order be given.”

Florida is projected by 2035 to have 60,000 fewer nurses than are needed to support health care demands across the state. Last year, 70% of hospitals in the state reported having critical staffing shortages, according to the Florida Hospital Association.

The bill would task the Articulation Coordinating Committee (ACC) with establishing 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.

The program, according to Rudman, would likely be patterned after a pilot program now underway at the University of South Florida.

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.

Ávila said eligible service members would include “any and all combat medics within any of the branches across the military.”

Senate staff determined the legislation, which would become effective immediately upon receiving Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, would have no fiscal impact on the state.

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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