Skip to main content

Name Change Sparks Dispute Between Nurse, Physician Anesthesiologist Organizations

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   August 17, 2021

Physicians charge the newly named American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology is 'title misappropriation.'

The American Society of Anesthesiologists' (ASA) claims that the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology's (AANA) recent name change is "deceptive" and "title misappropriation" is unnecessarily creating turmoil within the industry at a time when they all should be working together, the nurse group says.

"The notion of being pushed by the American Society of Anesthesiologists that rebranding and changing the name of the AANA will somehow mislead or harm patients or create discord among providers is absurd at best and false and inflammatory fearmongering at worst," the AANA said in a prepared statement.

The name change is part of a yearlong rebranding effort to advance the science of nurse anesthesiology and advocate for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), the AANA said in announcing the change.

"Our new name tells the story of who we are, what we do, and what we stand for," said AANA president Steven M. Sertich, CRNA, MAE, JD, Esquire.

But the name change from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, which went into effect August 14, ultimately risks patient safety, the ASA charged in a press release condemning the move.

"Many physician anesthesiologists value our nurse anesthetist colleagues and the important work all of us do together every day. We also know nurse anesthetists value and recognize the importance of our physician-led, team-based model of care—a model ASA is dedicated to preserve and enhance along with our shared commitment to patients," said ASA president Beverly K. Philip, MD, FACA, FASA.

"AANA's title misappropriation is a deceptive use of established medical terms and is part of their continuing push for nurse-only practice, which can jeopardize our patients’ safety and well-being," she said. "It also misleads the public and engages in the pretense that nurse anesthetists' education and training are equivalent to that of physicians."

Throughout the medical and nursing communities and certifying boards, “anesthesiology” and “anesthesiologist” are accepted as the terms for a medical specialty and a medical physician, according to the ASA, which laid out several examples, including:

  • ASA, the American Board of Anesthesiology, the American Board of Medical Specialties, and the American Medical Association affirm that anesthesiology is a medical specialty and professionals who refer to themselves as “anesthesiologists” must hold a license to practice medicine.
  • The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a ruling in March 2021 by the New Hampshire Board of Medicine to limit the use of the term “anesthesiologist” to individuals licensed to practice medicine.
  • The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs defines “anesthesiologist” as a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) who has successfully completed an approved anesthesiology residency program.

But as advanced practice nurses, CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered and are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural and medically underserved areas, according to the AANA.

As with other advanced practice nurses, CRNAs have expanded the nation's critical care workforce, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs are proud to be part of America’s most trusted profession—they do not equate or present themselves as physicians. When anesthesia is administered by a nurse, it is recognized as the practice of nursing," the AANA statement said.

"Far from adding confusion, the new name, American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, brings clarity to who CRNAs are, what they do, and their vital role in America’s healthcare system," according to the statement. "It accurately and strongly communicates that the AANA represents members of the nursing profession who provide anesthesia and are experts in anesthesiology."

“Our new name tells the story of who we are, what we do, and what we stand for.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists recently changed its name to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA).

The new name is a "deceptive use" of an established medical term, says the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

The new name brings clarity to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists' role in healthcare, the AANA says.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.