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Physician anesthesiologists, CRNAs at odds over opt-out

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Back in March, Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order opt-out. This order exempts Arizona from a federal regulation that requires Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists from having to be supervised by a physician.

Some physicians believe this opt-out should be temporary because they say it lowers the level of care in Arizona. While CRNAs argue that they are just as capable of providing these services.

From the governor's office, they say the reform will expand access to care and free up physicians for other medical services.

However, over 1,400 physician anesthesiologists have signed a petition asking the governor to make this a temporary designation. They say CRNAs lack the proper training to work unsupervised.

"Our perspective is because of the difference in training and education that CRNA's always need to supervised by a physician," said Dr. Heidi Tavel, physician and member of Physicians for Patient Protection.

According to the Arizona Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AZANA), they are more than qualified to perform this type of care and say the opt-out helps change the perception of nurse anesthetists.

"The most typical strategy for our counterparts is to mislabel us as nurses who are unable to practice without the guidance or that we are somehow incapable of handling emergency type situations," said Henry Sargent, President Elect of AZANA.

Sargent says nurse anesthetists are trained and board-certified to provide their care, but some physician anesthesiologists don't think the training each group goes through is comparable.

"They are not suited or qualified to be in that life or death situation unsupervised. Nurses do not have the same training that physicians do and diagnosis of problems and treatment of problems," said Tavel.

"If the alternative were the case then we wouldn't be employed in the capacity that we are and we wouldn't be chosen to provide anesthesia services for surgeons that are looking for the best possible outcome for their patients," said Sargent.

For now, there are no plans to make the opt-out temporary but physicians say they will continue reaching out to the governor.

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Mark Mingura

Mark Mingura joined KVOA as a Multi Media Journalist in October 2019. Originally from the valley and with ties to Tucson, Mark is excited to get back to his home state and tell the stories of the Old Pueblo.

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