New Mexicans interested in improving access to quality health care and the safe delivery of anesthesia ought to pay attention to an important piece of legislation making its way through the 2015 legislative session – HB 54, Anesthesiologist Assistant Definitions. This bill has the backing of the New Mexico Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Society of Anesthesiologists and we strongly urge its passage.
In New Mexico, both certified registered nurse anesthetists, and anesthesiologist assistants perform many of the same functions and are equally trained and highly skilled anesthesia professionals.
Anesthesiologist assistant certifications, in particular, require a master’s degree in addition to a two-year program.
Anesthesiologist assistants are not unique to New Mexico. They provide safe anesthesia as part of a physician-led team care model in 17 other states around the country. Anesthesiologist assistants play an extremely important role in the operating room as they serve as “physician extenders.”
Unfortunately in New Mexico, anesthesiologist assistants are currently limited by a nearly 15 year old agreement to practice at one institution only; the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.
During this time, anesthesiologist assistants have been delivering anesthesia at the state’s only Level 1 trauma center, working on some of the state’s most complex patients. They have proven their ability and expertise at that facility time and time again.
The New Mexico Society of Anesthesiologists is supporting HB 54 because the bill would allow other hospitals throughout New Mexico to employ anesthesiologist assistants as part of a physician-led team care model.
At a time when improving access to quality health care and safe pain management for medical procedures in New Mexico is of extreme importance, hospitals throughout the state should be given all the tools available to deliver it.
With this legislation, every New Mexico hospital will have the same opportunity as the UNM Health Sciences Center to hire anesthesiologist assistants as part of a physician-led team care model, when and if they need them.
When it comes to the safe delivery of anesthesia, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the New Mexico Society of Anesthesiologists believe that the physician-led team care model is the safest approach to ensuring patient safety.
We believe that everyone who delivers anesthesia has to be properly trained and educated and must be prepared to handle emergencies on the operating table should one occur. Both certified registered nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologist assistants are critical to the safe delivery of anesthesia.
Working together, we can greatly improve patient safety and access to care in New Mexico.