Nurses can administer anesthesia, Colo. court rules
A Colorado state appellate court ruled that nurse anesthetists can administer anesthesia without physician supervision in the state’s critical-access and rural hospitals. The case has pitted the state’s doctors against the governor, hospitals and nurses in what has turned into a scope-of-practice fight in 16 states— including California, where the state Supreme Court recently ruled in the nurses’ favor. Federal law requires physician supervision unless states submit signed letters from the governor to the CMS opting out of this requirement stating that doing so is “in the best interest of state citizens and consistent with state law.” Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter had submitted such a letter on Sept. 27, 2010. The next day, the Colorado Medical Society requested an injunction ordering the governor to opt back in. Ritter’s successor, John Hickenlooper, filed a motion to dismiss the society’s suit, which was granted by the district court on April 8, 2011. The medical society and the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists appealed the decision and were joined by the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Medical Association. “This ruling reaffirms the importance of properly trained nonphysician providers being allowed to provide critical healthcare services in rural parts of Colorado,” Colorado Hospital Association President and CEO Steven Summer said in a statement. Physician groups were disappointed. “Contrary to the court’s opinion, anesthesia care is more than just a medication,” Dr. Kristin Woodward, president of the Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists, said in a news release.