Legislation has been filed in the NC Senate that puts patients at great risk. Senate Bill 240proposes to eliminate the requirement of physician supervision of nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). North Carolina law has always required physician supervision of nurse anesthetists providing anesthesia medical care. Unfortunately, this important patient safety standard is under attack.
Physician supervision is, and should remain, the law.
The North Carolina Medical Board has always required physicians to supervise nurse anesthetists providing anesthesia services – this helps ensure the safety of services provided. Physician anesthesiologists complete almost double the education and more than ten times the clinical training of nurse anesthetists.
In 1998 and again in 2005, the N.C. Attorney General concluded that North Carolina law requires “the anesthesia care of a patient [must] be under the supervision of a physician.”
In 2005 the N.C. Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit by nurse anesthetists by finding that “physician supervision of nurse anesthetists providing anesthesia care . . . is a fundamental patient safety standard required by North Carolina law.”
The requirement of physician supervision is supported by multiple academic studies suggesting that physician involvement in anesthesia care improves patient outcomes. Additionally, every hospital in the state requires the supervision of nurses providing anesthesia services.
North Carolina law has always required physician supervision of nurse anesthetists. It should remain that way. We value the important contributions of CRNAs, but a physician-led care team provides the most effective — and safest — care for patients.
* Training Chart Courtesy of ASA “When Seconds Count”