Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

The Murky Waters Of Nursing Titles

There are several different degrees in which one can become a registered nurse.  They can have a diploma, associates or a bachelors.  There also are several master’s degrees.  When I attended nursing school, I became a MN, a Master of Nursing.  But now, the prevailing degree is an MSN., Master of Science in Nursing.

With a doctor’s education, one can earn a EdD, PhD, DNS or DNP. EdD for education, PhD for research, DNS Doctor of Nursing Science or DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice to name a few.  All of these terminal degrees can use the title Doctor. Now the State of New Hampshire is causing a stir about the use of the name of nurse anesthesiologist.

The CRNAs (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) claim that “Nurse Anesthesiologist” is a clear term for patients to understand what the CRNA does.  They believe the term anesthetist can be from a technical degree referring to anesthesiology assistants who have begun to refer to themselves as anesthetists.

Apparently, the CRNAs in New Hampshire were calling themselves nurse anesthesiologists until a lawsuit was filed by the New Hampshire Association of Nurse Anesthetists to use that term.  The New Hampshire Board of Nursing recognized the term “nurse anesthesiologist.”  In response, the New Hampshire Board of Medicine voted to prohibit individuals from calling themselves anesthesiologist unless they are a physician licensed by the Medical Board.  The New Hampshire Association of Nurse Anesthetists filed suit against the New Hampshire Board of Medicine to remove their ruling to prohibit non physicians from using the term anesthesiologist.

The arguments were that (1) there is no trademark on the term anesthesiologist, (2) it makes it clearer to the patient that the term anesthesiology is a unique discipline in that multiple professionals are experts in anesthesiology, not just physicians.

CRNAs undergo rigorous education and professional training.  The National Council of State Boards of Nursing promulgated the consensus model for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of which CRNAs are a part of those model rules.

However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the term anesthesiologist applies only to physicians.  The American Society of Anesthesiologists was thrilled with the opinion and the American Medical Association also submitted a brief in support that nurses are not anesthesiologists in the same way that they are not physicians.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists claims that the use of anesthesiologist by nurses is misleading and confusing to patients.  However, if you say you are a nurse anesthesiologist, I cannot see how that can be confusing or misleading, especially when nurse anesthesiologists perform similar functions as physician anesthesiologists.

This ruling applies only to parties in New Hampshire, but I would think it will be looked at by other states as well.

What do you think about CRNAs being called nurse anesthesiologists?  Let me hear your thoughts below.

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Click here to listen to the New Hampshire Supreme Court Argument

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