Florida moves to address nursing shortage with new medication aide training bill

by | Mar 28, 2023

  • Senate and House bills have advanced in Florida to address the nursing workforce shortage and improve care for nursing-home residents.
  • The proposed legislation permits certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to become trained as qualified medication aides to administer routine medications, freeing up registered nurses for other needed care.
  • The bill aims to enhance job satisfaction for nurses, boost job mobility for frontline caregivers, and improve the quality of care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Legislation aimed at addressing Florida’s nursing workforce shortage and improving care for nursing-home residents has advanced in both the Senate and House. Senate Bill 558 and its House counterpart, House Bill 351, would permit certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to become trained as “qualified medication aides,” allowing them to administer routine medications and perform tasks such as checking residents’ blood glucose levels.

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee approved SB 558, sponsored by Health Policy Chairwoman Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, earlier Tuesday. The bill would free up registered nurses to provide other needed care, as qualified medication aides would take on tasks such as administering routine medications.

Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed said the legislation would help address the historic nursing workforce shortage by enhancing job satisfaction for nurses and offering CNAs opportunities to earn higher wages and broaden their career paths in nursing. CNAs with at least one year of experience would be eligible for additional training to become a qualified medication aide, boosting job mobility for frontline caregivers.

“When nurses can concentrate on higher-level care, they can better detect medical conditions early, leading to more successful treatment outcomes and fewer costly trips to the hospital for residents,” Reed said.

The FHCA is also advocating for litigation reform in the long-term care sector to address the “sue-to-settle” climate, which diverts resources necessary for investing in quality care and damages staff morale.

Reed emphasized the need for continued support from lawmakers to address the long-term care sector’s ongoing economic and workforce challenges.

“The investments we make now will help us forge ahead toward our goals of improving quality, strengthening our workforce, and ensuring that our state’s seniors and people with disabilities have access to the high-quality care they need, today and into the future.”

The House version of the bill is ready to go to the floor for a full vote.


  1. Maria E Gonzalez

    That is great, but most Hospital have gotten rid of the CNA’s so I don’t know how this will help the acute care nurses. State legislation should mandate hospital to have a certain number of CNA to patients ratio. Thus is was causing the nursing shortage they have no help, plus the patients ratio for Nurses is too high considering all the documentation nurses have to do plus take care of the entire care of each of her assigned patients.

    • Anonymous

      Having just recently been in the hospital, I concur with you. Often I was not attended to after ringing the buzzer. The charge nurse approached me and noted they were short people that day and I had to just wait. Poop for 2 hours.

    • Joe

      What shortage? LPN’ s can not find work in Florida. Please let me know where is this shortage?

    • Mary Jo Nelson

      Hello, Most CNAs are employed in Nursing Homes or other long-term care facilities. This is BACK BREAKING WORK, so the new QMA (giving meds) …because nurses no longer want to do it..should not be required to do patient care as well. More and more work is being dumped on the very low-paying CNA.

  2. C. M.

    This legislation may be well intended (change medical regulation to enable better patient care), but why aren’t there enough nurses in Florida in the first place? Could it be Florida nursing home nurses are not compensated well enough to make it an attractive profession? In my opinion, changing a regulation to solve personnel strength or staffing levels (which ultimately lowers qualifications and benefits the bottom line of health organizations) is not a well thought out long term (better patient care) solution.

    • NT

      Iam a Registered nurse.I disagree with this legislation the same nurse who gives a blood pressure Med also can give the stool softeners. What higher task will the nurse have to do? At present it’s LPNs that give meds. And the CNA does All the bedside patient care. If wound care is needed it’s done by The nurse. Why try this experiment with our vulnerable seniors in the nursing homes! Med errors occur, who will take the responsibility? CNAs are not state licensed. Who checks bloodwork before giving the Med? Pay better salaries to our nurses! This can be an incentive.

    • Mary Jo Nelson

      It’s is always about money, although they will tell you it’s about patient care. Don’t believe it!

  3. Frank Thompson

    Most CNA’s are not qualified to dispense meds. This is another disaster waiting to happen in Florida’s nursing homes. This Governor and legislature is turning Florida into South Mississippi.

  4. Liz

    There’s a reason nurses are required to take pharmacology, anatomy and physiology & chemistry and multiple other courses. We’re not just professional pill poppers! This is dangerous legislation and it’s being done to get rid of nurses and give our work away to workers who are not required to take all the courses required for nursing and hospitals can get away with paying CNAs less so they can increase their profits. This is what it’s really about. It has nothing to do with fixing the staffing shortage bc there’s no shortage of nurses there are plenty of nurses it’s that hospitals purposely run hospitals understaffed for profit and now it’s worse bc nurses have had enough. Things were bad before the pandemic but legislation wasn’t passed then but now they want to do something? I’m sure the hospital association lobby is behind it.

    • Anonymous

      I agree! My granddaughter took a course I paid 80.00 for a four hour course and she gets paid as much as an LPN to pass medication and constantly calls me for advise on medications, I have asked her to go to nursing school and she will see that what she does may be good for business but not good for residents. I had to go to school for years before I could touch medications. I think it’s ok as long as there are nurses there to oversee what they are doing. But there is a rationale behind EVERYTHING we do as nurses and you can’t learn that in a crash course. I have been in nursing for 40 years and will be glad to retire this year, Healthcare is awful here in Florida.

  5. Martha

    Absolutely NO! This sets a very dangerous and ominous precedence for ALL citizens. It’s all about profits in our healthcare facilities including ALF. I’m in the profession for 41 yrs and 34 as an APRN. Medication errors can and do happen even with the most skilled RN’s and LPN’s. Many praises for CNA’s who also aren’t compensated monetarily for their tremendous efforts.
    Healthcare workers need to have salaries that coincide with their skills and knowledge. Again, absolute NO to this bill.

    • Mary Jo

      I do not know who thought of this idea. What is needed is better pay for CNAs and Nurses and possibly they will stay in the nursing home/long-term care profession. One article said nurses felt they only pushed pill-carts around. In my experience, nurses mostly sat on their butt during the shift, and yes did pass meds and charted, but did not do nearly the amount of work done by the CNAs. As a matter of fact, things that used to be done by nurses are now being done by CNAs. While getting this Med Tech/Med Aide (QMA) certificate is voluntary, I can see how it could create staffing issues, conflicts and too many fingers in the pot. Personally, if I were giving meds, I want to be responsible solely. Also, it is not likely that SNF’s will pay for training nor give a wage increase ($2-3/hr).

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