The American Society of Anesthesiologists sent out a crowing email yesterday announcing a new bill introduced in the Senate by Mark Kirk, Republican Senator from Illinois. S. 297 would allow most nurses in the VA to practice independently of physicians. These independent nurses include: Nurse Midwives, Clinical Nurse Specialists for mental health, and Nurse Practitioners.
Notably absent from this list of nursing professionals are, of course, CRNA's. The email proudly states, "The ASA is pleased that S. 297 appropriately excludes nurse anesthetists. The legislation reflects a growing Congressional consensus that the surgical/anesthesia setting is a high-risk health care environment requiring physician involvement in care."
Naturally the AANA is not taking any of this lying down. They also sent out their own press release, "Please help stop this damaging course of action by contacting your U.S. Senators today. We have reason to believe that the ASA is now behind S. 297 as a political maneuver to halt further Veterans Health Administration action." Gee I wonder how they figured out that the ASA was behind this bill?
I'm not sure what the ASA's strategy for this legislation is. In my opinion, by endorsing a bill to allow other nurses like NP's to have independent practice taking care of our nations veterans, it weakens their argument that CRNA's are not able to perform their duties without physician oversight. If the ASA thinks NP's and Midwives are good enough to see patients on their own, how can they make a distinction with CRNA's? And how thrilled are the Internists and OB/GYN's with Congress allowing nurses to compete with their practices? Did the ASA just make enemies with these two large physician organizations?
Of course this battle is far from over. This is only one bill that has yet to make its way through the entire Legislative branch and hopefully avoid the President's veto pen. There is still a long ways to go before any of these new rules become reality.