INDIANA — Before Rita Fleming (D-Jeffersonville) was a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, she spent her career working through various medical licenses from a registered nurse to an obstetrician-gynecologist.

After working as a floor and emergency room RN, Fleming obtained her Master’s degree and worked as a family nurse practitioner for five years before she obtained her medical doctorate as an OB-GYN.

“I’ve never been sorry for any of the degrees that I’ve earned,” Fleming said, “I’m proud of each one of them.”

In her time as a physician, Fleming always made sure that her patients knew what her exact role was in their team of health care workers.

A new Indiana law will require medical professionals to clearly identify themselves based on their license type in advertising, such as on clinic or hospital websites, on billboards or in commercials.

The law means medical professionals should call themselves by recognizable names such as nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, physician assistant, etc., rather than just a combination of letter that can confuse patients.

“I just think it’s important that the public knows who’s caring for them, and I think it’s important for each of us who have worked so hard to get our degrees to be proud of who we are and to educate the public about our unique contribution to their care,” Fleming said.

Fleming was one of the sponsors of the bill that was authored by Southern Indiana’s District 46 state senator, Kevin Boehnlein (R-Greenville).

“What we were trying to do in the state of Indiana is create some lines. We’re just gonna make sure folks are one:accurately depicting what it is they do and how they inform their profession,” he said. “And two: that as consumers we are able to discern what it is that they’re doing and how they’re helping us with our medical needs.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law on March 15 after it was passed in the state legislative session a few days prior. Indiana is the first state in the country to implement this kind of law.

Boehnlein emphasized that he has a high level of respect for every medical professional, but there is a need for clarity in the medical field.

A 2020 independent study showed that 1-in-4 Hoosiers were not confident they knew which medical professional they had seen in the past few years, the Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA)’s website stated.

John Ruckelshaus, ISMA’s vice president of governmental affairs, said that physicians were telling the association that there is a lot of confusion in hospitals and in clinical settings.

“When you go to an emergency room or you’re admitted to a hospital, there may be a dozen white coats, and of course you’re in a state that’s probably not well (that’s the reason why you’re there), and you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” Ruckelshaus said. “You really need to know who you’re dealing with, and that was the whole reason and impetus for the bill,” he continued.

The bill that was initially proposed would have required medical professionals to wear a badge denoting their title, though that part of the bill did not pass into law. Though the law goes into effect in July, medical professionals have until January of 2023 to comply. Ruckelshaus said they wanted to give people more time so that they can digest the adjustment in the marketplace.

Fleming said that she cannot imagine why any medical professional would have an issue with the law.

“We all should be proud of what we’ve earned and be able to represent our profession in a manner that people realize that we are an important part of the health care team no matter what our title,” she said.

According to the law there will be disciplinary action for medical professionals who advertise deceptive or misleading information or if they do not state their profession or license prominently, according to the ISMA website.

Boehnlein said the disciplinary acts will be sanctioned by the medical professional’s board, but he thinks that medical professionals and groups will redouble their efforts in identifying themselves in advertisements.
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