On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, upheld a New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) regulation that requires anesthesiologists to supervise nurse anesthetists when they administer anesthesia in hospitals.
In New Jersey Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Inc. v. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the case addressed the validity of a regulation issued by the New Jersey Department of Health that requires the "physical presence of a collaborating anesthesiologist (CA) during induction, emergence and critical change in status when an Advance Practice Nurse/Anesthesia (APN/A) administers general or major regional anesthesia, conscious sedation or minor regional blocks in a hospital."
The New Jersey Association of Nurse Anesthetists challenged the physical presence requirement, arguing among other things that the NJDOH exceeded its authority. In ruling against the New Jersey Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the court referenced previous case law holding that the "administration of anesthesia is, in fact, the 'practice of medicine' since it is used in the treatment of 'human ailment, disease, pain, injury, [or] deformity'." The court also drew a special distinction between the nurses’ contention that this rule regulated the nursing profession and explained that the rule was "…regulating the practice of administering anesthesia in a hospital setting.” Finally, the court highlighted that it was within the Department of Health’s authority to “recognize the differences in education, training and skill of APN/As and anesthesiologists in establishing anesthesia staffing regulations.”
The New Jersey State Society of Anesthesiologists filed several briefs on the case and also presented arguments to the court, providing an important perspective for its deliberations. ASA applauds the New Jersey State Society of Anesthesiologists on this important patient safety success.