Nurse anesthetists are gearing up for another battle in the General Assembly.
On Wednesday, the N.C. Association of Nurse Anesthetists released the results of a poll it commissioned, showing a majority of voters in the state support a pending bill.
House Bill 88 includes provisions that would define the nurses’ duties and responsibilities, which the association says have already been in North Carolina’s administrative code for decades. It doesn’t expand their roles, and still requires they collaborate with physicians, dentists or podiatrists.
Under the bill, they would be permitted to select and administer drugs for surgery, diagnostic or therapeutic procedures. They would not be required to work under the direct supervision of a physician. Anesthesiologists oppose the bill.
“Physician supervision of nurses providing anesthesia care has been required by North Carolina law for decades and is an important patient safety standard at every hospital in our state,” said Dana Simpson, legal counsel for the N.C. Society of Anesthesiologists, a partner in the Smith Anderson law firm. “Physician supervision protects patients and should not be changed.”
The survey was conducted last week of 500 likely voters. It found 73 percent of respondents supported the bill when it was described to them as increasing safe and affordable health care, according to the group.
Kimberly Gordon, president of the association, said certified registered nurse anesthetists are trained professionals, who already work with military patients in combat zones. She said the nurses provide more affordable and accessible health care, especially in rural areas of the state.
The group says studies show the state would save $477 million annually if advanced practice registered nurses, which includes the anesthetists, were allowed to practice to the full extent of their training.
Some of the same issues were debated four years ago in the General Assembly, when the nurses’ association ran into opposition from anesthesiologists.
A similar standoff is playing out this year, as optometrists are making a bid to perform procedures that are currently only allowed to be performed by ophthalmologists.