Title Misappropriation – Truth and Transparency
It is an unchallenged ethical principle that every patient must have full knowledge and understanding of the education, training, skills, and experience of the health care professionals providing their care. Currently, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) and its state societies are conducting a campaign to misappropriate physician descriptors and medical titles, which confuses and misleads the public and patients.
AANA changed its name in August 2021 to the American Association of Nurse “Anesthesiology” and is pushing members to adopt the title “nurse anesthesiologist.”
An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor. A nurse anesthetist is not. This is not a new distinction. Since its first use in 1922, “anesthesiologist” has always referred to physicians trained in the medical science of anesthesiology.
The American Medical Association, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and the American Board of Medical Specialties affirm that anesthesiology is a medical specialty and professionals who refer to themselves as “anesthesiologists” must hold a license to practice medicine.
Unfortunately, this is not a new issue. For years, patients have been perplexed by the lack of information about the wide variety of individuals who work in health care. They are confused by the increasing ambiguity of health care provider advertising and titles. In fact, a survey found that 44 percent of patients find it difficult to identify who is a licensed physician (MD or DO) by reading the services they offer, their title and other licensing materials.
ASA respects and values our nurse anesthetist colleagues as important members of the Anesthesia Care Team; however, we believe AANA’s actions to undermine that team and mislead patients are unfortunate and misguided.
ASA is fighting back:
- In response to the AANA name change, ASA issued a position statement, an eblast to all members and a news release, which garnered articles in Becker's Hospital Review, MedPage Today, HealthLeaders and Medscape.
- In June 2021, ASA co-hosted a medical title manipulation summit with the American Medical Association (AMA) as a first step of a broader initiative to prevent some nonphysicians’ deliberate efforts to confuse patients. Thirty national and state medical societies participated in the summit as did other organizations, including the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
- In May 2021, ASA launched a public campaign encouraging policymakers to reject AANA’s title misappropriation and other efforts to advance nurse-only anesthesia practice.
- In April 2021, ASA called on the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to reject any requests to manipulate and misappropriate medical titles.
- As part of this effort, ASA also published open letters to our nurse anesthetist colleagues calling on them to stand with us against AANA’s efforts with the goal to protect patient safety and the proven effectiveness of the Anesthesia Care Team.
Learn more about our efforts and how members can take action on title misappropriation here.