Changes to VA documents cause concern

New York residents who visit Veterans Administration hospitals may have cause for concern if draft-documents that would require nurse anesthetists to work without physician supervision are finalized. By abandoning current team-based practices, hospitals may see an increased number of anesthesia errors. After reviewing the new documents, the American Society of Anesthesiologists called the new regulations ill-conceived. The incoming president of the ASA has stated that allowing nurses to operate without supervision raises concerns for patient safety.

According to the president, currently an MD and former nurse anesthetist, the role of a doctor and a certified registered nurse anesthetist are not even remotely equivalent. Nurse anesthetists undergo five to seven years of training compared to a physician's 12 to 14 years, and many nurse anesthetists do not have a college degree. The ASA learned of the new documents a few months ago, and despite several attempts to discuss the changes, the VA has denied the requests.

One of the reasons that the ASA is so concerned about the reduction in oversight of nurses is that the patients in the VA's care are almost 15 percent more likely to be in poorer health than the general population. This means that the risk of complication before and after surgery is even greater for these individuals. The ASA is currently working with Congress in an attempt to change these new regulations.

Anesthesia errors can have grave consequences and sometimes even lead to patient death. A lawyer could help people understand their legal rights and options for pursuing compensation if he or she or a family member has been harmed as a result of an incorrect dosage of anesthesia.

Source: Anesthesiology News, "ASA Blasts Proposed Change To VA Nursing Guidelines", Adam Marcus, October 08, 2013

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