Letters to the Editor

Veterans’ lives at risk

I am compelled to share a life-threatening risk to all of our veterans, and an opportunity for the public to be heroes for these uniformed men and women.

Veterans Affairs is evaluating cost-saving measures that would elevate advanced practice registered nurses to the status of independent practice. Unfortunately, this is not a matter of a competitive sub-specialization, this is simply a capacity APRNs are not equipped to fill.

As a physician anesthesiologist, I often medically direct nurse anesthetists. Nurse anesthetists are an integral component of the anesthesia team, and serve a supportive function. While nurse anesthetists can be directed to administer the potentially lethal drugs we use to induce unconsciousness, their training precludes a comprehensive understanding of pharmokinetics, physiology or the complexities of the human body. While nurse anesthetists have received advanced training in the field of anesthesia from a nursing perspective, they have not attended medical school, nor completed medical residency. Lacking this additional training, APRNs simply aren’t a viable substitute for medical doctors. Substituting a lower level of care creates a higher level of risk, a dangerous alternative to the quality of care our veterans so richly deserve.

To aid in VA’s full consideration to this issue, the VA is seeking comments regarding the proposed full practice authority.

Veterans willingly risked their lives to keep our country safe. Don't allow the VA to deploy a nurse anesthetist without physician supervision. Protect our veterans. For more information, go to www.safevacare.org.

Edward Dench, M.D., State College

The writer is a Navy and Marine Corps Medal recipient.