Medical malpractice cases are about to be on the rise in Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey inexplicably opted Arizona out of a federal physician supervision requirement for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs). This means CRNAs no longer require supervision of a physician when treating patients.
So what does this mean for patients? It means that CRNAs, who are considered mid-level practitioners, can now work independently. It means that patients will be treated by someone who does not have the full training of an anesthesiologist, but who thinks he/she has that full knowledge and skill sit. Most importantly, it means someone with only an extra 2-3 years of school will be monitoring patient’s vital signs during surgery and will be expected to intervene to save the patient’s life, if necessary. In other words, it means that medical malpractice cases are about to be on the rise.
In a recent Op-Ed piece for the Arizona Capitol Times, anesthesiologist Heidi Tavel, MD explains why this decision from Gov. Ducey is so ridiculous and short-sighted. Dr. Tavel notes that the decision was made “without input from the public or the state’s medical community and risks patients’ lives — and for no reason.” Eliminating the requirement for physician supervision will not result in any cost savings; it only “lowers the standard of care for patients.” Anesthesiologists are critical to safeguarding patients’ well-being. They literally monitor every heartbeat while the patient is under anesthesia. If something goes wrong, the anesthesiologist is expected to immediately intervene to save the patient’s life. That need now lies in the hand of a practitioner who has significantly less training and education. What could possibly go wrong?