Thank you to the thousands of individuals who made their voice heard against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed policy to remove physician anesthesiologists from the operating room. Over the 60 day comment period, over 90,000 individuals demanded that VA keep physician-led anesthesia care, because our nation's Veterans have earned and deserve the highest standard of care.

Now, VA is reviewing the comments submitted urging VA not to change the current safe, high-quality anesthesia policy. While VA considers the patient safety implications of this proposal, please consider asking your legislator to stand up for Veterans by protecting safe physician-led anesthesia Care in VA!

For more information on this issue, please watch the video below or scroll down for background on VA’s proposed policy change.

Get The Facts!

Tell the VA to Protect our Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) proposed policy removes physician anesthesiologists from surgery and replaces them with nurses, lowering the standard of care for the nation’s Veterans and jeopardizing their lives.

The policy change is based on a shortage of some types of physicians in VA. However, there is no shortage of physician anesthesiologists and the change is not needed to improve access to anesthesia care in surgery. The policy would abandon a proven model of care where physician anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists work together as a team to provide Veterans high-quality and safe anesthesia.

There is no substitute for physician-led care in the operating room.

  • Surgery and anesthesia are inherently dangerous requiring physician involvement, especially for VA patients who often are sicker, and have multiple medical conditions that put them at risk for complications.
  • The VA’s own internal evaluation of the relevant studies regarding health outcomes of patients receiving care from nurse anesthetists practicing independently concluded that the evidence was biased and insufficient to support making a policy change. VA’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) could not discern “whether more complex surgeries can be safely managed by CRNAs, particularly in small or isolated VA hospitals where preoperative and postoperative health system factors may be less than optimal.”
  • The policy also conflicts with state laws that recognize the importance of physician involvement in the delivery of anesthesia.
  • The leading experts on anesthesia care in the VA, the Chiefs of Anesthesiology, have twice expressed concern that the new policy “would directly compromise patient safety and limit our ability to provide quality care to Veterans.” Veterans membership organizations and a bipartisan group of more than 90 members of Congress also oppose the policy.
  • Physician anesthesiologists receive 12 to 14 years of education, including medical school, and 12,000 to 16,000 hours of clinical training to specialize in anesthesia care and pain control with the necessary knowledge to understand and treat the entire human body.1 By comparison, nurse anesthetists have about half the education and almost 2,500 hours of clinical training.2

A physician anesthesiologist’s education and training can mean the difference between life and death when seconds count. Protect Safe VA care. Vets earned and deserve it. Post your comment to stop the VA from removing physician anesthesiologists from surgery.

More Information

Read the Office of Nursing Services Facts and Background document: download here.


1. American Medical Association. Advocacy Resource Center. “Do You Know Your Doctor?” Sources and Citations. 2015
2. American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, “Education of Nurse Anesthetists in the United States – At a Glance,” available at, accessed March 9, 2016.

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