Nurses’ Use of Physician Term Anesthesiologist Misleading to Patients


ASA urges New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold Medical Board’s decision to stop confusing patients 

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Mega Doctor NEWS

Newswise — The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) yesterday urged the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold the New Hampshire Medical Board’s decision that health care professionals using the term “anesthesiologist” must be licensed physicians and meet all the requirements to practice medicine in the state, according to an amicus curiae brief filed on behalf of ASA and the American Medical Association (AMA).

“Every patient deserves to be certain about who is performing their anesthesia care during a procedure or surgery,” said Mary Dale Peterson, MD., MSHCA, FACHE, FASA. “It is vital that all health care providers use only the titles that align with their license, education and training. Using anesthesiologists in combination with a nursing title only confuses patients. It is commonly understood, and many professional health care organizations agree — anesthesiology is the practice of medicine.”

In the brief, ASA and AMA note that nurses are not anesthesiologists, in the same way that they are not physicians.

ASA and AMA also note, if a patient confuses nurse anesthetists with anesthesiologists, that patient may consent to receiving anesthesia believing they are under the care of a medical doctor, not a nurse. The use of the inaccurate and confusing title removes the patient’s informed choice of provider and their ability to provide proper informed consent.

The brief goes on to note, if the inaccurate title is allowed to be used in New Hampshire, essentially the court is approving how it was adopted, and could open the floodgates for manipulation of many more medical titles, making it nearly impossible to determine the nature of a health care provider’s license, education, and training based on their title. The brief further noted that allowing this inaccurate use of title will place New Hampshire outside of the established mainstream in the country.

Cited in the brief, ASA and AMA point out that numerous health care organizations cite anesthesiology as the practice of medicine:

  • The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, the accrediting agency for nurse anesthetists, defines “anesthesiologist” as a “doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) who has successfully completed an approved anesthesiology residency program.”
  • The World Health Organization views “anesthesiology as a medical practice” that should be directed and supervised by an anesthesiologist.
  • AMA policy is that “anesthesiology is the practice of medicine.”

Based on a recent study conducted by the AMA, 70% of patients recognized an anesthesiologist as a physician, and 71% responded that a nurse anesthetist was not a physician. From every meaningful metric, the education and training of an anesthesiologist are more expansive than nurse anesthetists. A physician’s education and training spans at least 12-14 years after high school. Anesthesiologists have between 12,000-16,000 hours of patient care training in their curriculum.

Nurse anesthesia education and training range from four to six years after high school. Nurse anesthetists trained in the last two decades have a baccalaureate degree in nursing (four years), work one year in an intensive care setting, and then participate in about 30-months of anesthesia training, graduating with a master’s degree. Nurse anesthetists have approximately 2,000 hours of patient care training.

THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research, and scientific society with more than 54,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during, and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter.