Anesthesiologists form campaign to combat VA's proposal for APRNs

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has launched the Protect Safe VA Care campaign to combat a proposed rule from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would give advanced practice registered nurses full practice authority.

At a press briefing Wednesday, several healthcare industry officials joined ASA President Dan Cole, M.D.; to share concerns with the proposal, each echoing the same idea: replacing physician anesthesiologists with nurse anesthetists would reduce the standard of care for veterans.

"The 27-page policy statement just published by the VA will not improve healthcare," said Samuel Spagnolo, M.D., president of the National Association of VA Physician and Dentists. "It will permanently establish a second, lower-level of care in which physicians are not making critical care decisions."

The ASA previously released a statement opposing the rule, as did the American Medical Association. Protect Safe VA Care allows veterans, their families and others to express their own opposition to the rule. Spagnolo encouraged everyone to closely read the VA's rule, posted May 25 on the Federal Register, and then post comments on the site. The 60-day comment period for the rule ends July 25.

On the other hand, a study published in Medical Care found that using nurse anesthetists instead of physician anesthesiologists had no impact on the number of anesthesia-related complications in surgery. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) released a statement Wednesday in response to the study, urging support for the VA's rule in light of the findings. The proposed rule is supported by more than 60 medical associations, according to the statement, including the AARP.

"It's interesting that the same doctors who argue that they need to be involved in the care of our military veterans don't insist on being assigned to the front lines during military actions to care for soldiers horribly injured during battle, leaving this up to CRNAs to handle," said AANA President Juan Quintana in the statement. "Somehow, in their view, that's less complicated than caring for veterans stateside. That's an affront to any man or woman who has ever worn a uniform in service to this country."

To learn more:
- view the Protect Safe VA Care fact sheet
- read the study abstract
- here's the AANA statement

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