CA Court Rejects Nurse Anesthetists Supervision Petition

Cheryl Clark, October 14, 2010

In a victory for nurse anesthetists, a California Superior Court judge has rejected a petition filed by two medical groups who say that allowing unsupervised advanced practice nurses to administer anesthesia puts patients at risk.

The California Medical Association and the California Society of Anesthesiologists in February sued California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for opting out of the Medicare requirement that physicians supervise nurse anesthetists when Medicare patients are involved.

The doctors' groups argued that the governor failed to follow steps required by Medicare regulations that required him to consult with state boards of medicine and nursing in waiving the federal requirement.

"It's a patient safety issue when you have absolutely no supervision from a physician; it's very risky," Francisco Silva, general counsel for the two groups, said in a February during the court case.

The CMA says the ruling is "raising questions about how to protect patients' quality of care and whether the state Legislature should intervene."

"Nurses are highly valued members of a team of health care professionals that works closely together to give patients the best possible care, said James Hinsdale, M.D., president of CMA. "However, people must understand that nurses do not receive the same extensive training and education that doctors do and are not interchangeable substitutes for practicing physicians. Requiring physician supervision is one important element of ensuring the best quality of care."

The news that the court had sided with the governor came in a statement from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, which supported the governor's action and filed a court declaration in support.

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