Advocates urge support for VA proposed rule on APRNs

It’s been just over a month since the Department of Veterans Affairs published a proposed rule that would give advanced practice registered nurses full practice authority, and advocates of the change want support for the proposal to continue through its comment period.

The proposed rule has received 40,000 comments, Juan Quintana, R.N., president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, said at a press conference, and an initial review indicates that two-thirds of them support it. Quintana said certified registered nurses have been administering anesthesia to patients for more than 150 years, and such nurses offer needed services in rural and underserved areas that is equal to that delivered by anesthesiologists.

“We are ready and capable to provide the services needed by our veterans today,” he said.

The proposed rule, published May 25 in Federal Register, would address staffing issues at VA hospitals, which have come under fire after veterans faced long wait times for care.

However, it is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the latter of which created the Project Safe VA Care campaign to combat the rule. They argue that replacing physician anesthesiologists with nurse anesthetists would reduce the standard of care for veterans.

Alongside Quintana, Cindy Cooke, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners; Marla Weston, R.N., CEO of the American Nurses Association; Jane Kirschling, R.N., dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing; Robert Frank, CEO of the Air Force Sergeants Association; and Kathryn Beasley, Ph.D., deputy director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America, all spoke at a conference aimed to promote continued support for the proposal.

Frank, who served in the Air Force for 26 years, said it is astounding that APRNs have not been given full practice authority by the VA before. “It does surprise me that the VA is not doing this particular practice today,” he said at the conference. “There is an option to get [veterans] in the next day, or maybe even in a shorter period of time than that, so why are we not doing this today?”

To learn more:
- read the post-conference announcement