July 05, 2005
New Jersey Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Office-Based Surgery Regulations
The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division's decision and held that the office-based surgery regulations challenged by the New Jersey Association of Nurse Anesthetists were within the Board of Medical Examiners' delegated authority. The Court agreed with the Appellate Division's holding that the administration of anesthesia is the practice of medicine and that the regulations fall squarely within the Board's core jurisdiction, the licensing and qualifications of physicians, and how they perform their professional services. It also agreed that while the regulations have an indirect impact on the CRNAs' profession, the BME is not regulating the nursing profession, but rather the physicians who offer anesthesia in an office setting.
Recognizing the unique nature of the office setting, the Court held that the "wealth of testimony adduced at the public hearings on the regulations supported the need for enhanced education and oversight." This decision upheld the requirement that a qualified physician must supervise a nurse anesthetist who administers and monitors general or regional anesthesia. The regulations specify how many hours of continuing medical education in anesthesia the supervising physician must have completed. Lastly, the Court recognized the value of having an anesthesiologist involved in the delivery of anesthesia care. It is "fundamentally reasonable that additional education and training would enable anesthesiologists administering or overseeing anesthesia to better protect patients and to respond when complications occur."