For more than 30 years, NJANA has been committed to protecting the rights of our members and ensuring safe, affordable anesthesia care for patients by educating lawmakers and the public about issues that can potentially impact the ability of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) and Advanced Practice Nurses in Anesthesia (APN-A) to practice in New Jersey and beyond our borders.

Top NJ Issue #1: Joint Protocol

The Issue: The “Joint Protocol” that was enacted in 2009 created an unfair, restrictive barrier that tied the hands of APN-Anesthesia and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) by only allowing them to work under the supervision of a licensed physician anesthesiologists. Prior to 2009, APN/CRNA’s could work under the supervision of qualified surgeons, dentists, dermatologists and other physicians. The restrictions of Joint Protocol are also causing a severe shortage of CRNA and APN professionals.

  • Click here to read more about the history and evolution of Joint Protocol in N.J.

The Challenge: With only 1,200 physician anesthesiologists and around 900 CRNA’s/APN-Anesthesia providers in the state, this severely restricts independent employment opportunities for advanced practice nurses, drives up the costs of anesthesia care and ultimately reduces the accessibility of quality anesthesia care for patients.

  • Click here to read about the impact of Joint Protocol on CRNAs/APN-As and care in N.J.

The Brain Drain: NJ institutions provide a rigorous but outstanding education for APN-A’s who graduate with doctorates and more than 10,000 hours of specialized medical training. 100 percent of all APN-A’s are nationally board-certified to practice anesthesia at the same level as our physician anesthesiologist colleagues. Unfortunately, 50% of these highly trained professionals leave to practice in states without “Joint Protocol”, such as NY, PA and DE, because of the tremendously different impact they can have on patient care.

The Climate: Over the past 25 years, 24 states have removed practice restrictions for APN-A/CRNA’s because of proven cost-effectiveness and the exemplary safety records in every type of health care setting. Not one state has ever reversed that decision.

COVID-19 Impact

The COVID-19 Pandemic resulted in the Governor signing Executive Order #112 (extended on 3/7/22 until State of Emergency is removed) to temporarily lift the Joint Protocol practice in New Jersey to increase the number of nurse anesthetists available to assist where needed to provide care for patients across the state. This resulted in CRNAs and APN-Anesthesia nurses taking to the frontlines, serving as the backbone for ICUs, directing care and managing the most critical patients in hospitals across the state — saving lives.

  • Click here to read how we made a positive difference during COVID-19.
  • Click here to see where we go from here after the EO expires.

Legislation that could PERMANENTLY REMOVE Joint Protocol/Supervision

There are two companion bills, “Practice Restrictions for Advanced Practice Nurses,” currently being presented for consideration in the Assembly and Senate that would eliminate certain practice restrictions for APNs, including permanently remove the Joint Protocol requirements for CRNAs/APN-As in New Jersey.

  • Assembly Bill: NJ A 2286 – Sponsor: Munoz N (R) Status: 02/03/2022 FILED.
  • Senate Bill: NJ S 1522Sponsor: Vitale (D) Status: 02/03/2022 FILED.

Justification for the legislation:

“As authorized under Executive Order No. 112 and the waivers issued pursuant to the executive order. No adverse incidents were reported during the waiver period involving advanced practice nurses practicing without practice restrictions. Given the need for expanded access to care, it is necessary and appropriate to take steps to remove practice restrictions that serve as a barrier for advanced practice nurses to practice in New Jersey to the full extent of their education, clinical training, and national certification” (cited in S-1522).

“The bill further provides that every APN who is an APN-Anesthesia and who has completed 24 months or 2,400 hours of licensed, active, advanced nursing practice in an initial role will be authorized to practice as an APN-Anesthesia to the full scope of practice for APNs-Anesthesia, without any requirement for supervision by a licensed physician and without any requirement that the APN-Anesthesia enter into joint protocols with a licensed physician.” (cited in S-1522)

Why this legislation is important:

Advanced practice nurses augment the system of care in NJ and nationwide by providing treatment services at a level that can relieve some of the demand on physicians, of whom there is a chronic shortage, and expedite access to care for patients, including those in medically underserved areas and among medically underserved populations

Currently, 24 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories have adopted full practice authority for advanced practice nurses. The requirement to practice in collaboration with a physician limits the ability of advanced practice nurses to provide primary care and specialty care services, and has been associated with advanced practice nurses leaving New Jersey for other jurisdictions with fewer practice restrictions.

It has been estimated that removing practice restrictions for advanced practice nurses has the potential to reduce health care access disparities by a factor of more than 38 percent.

Additional legislation to ensure more access to affordable health care

NJ A-223
Sponsor: Munoz N (R)
Title: “Consumer Access to Health Care Act”
There is pending legislation currently in the Assembly Health Care Committee that could help remove the Joint Protocol in NJ. This legislation would help to keep trained anesthesia professionals in the state and increase patient access to high-quality, more affordable health care services.

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