ASA Legislative Conference Report/Summary

Last week I attended the ASA Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.    The conference made me realize that every time I pay dues to NMSA and ASA, it is well worth it.   The organization and structure the conference provided enabled 500 physician anesthesiologists the ability to go out and advocate for our patients and our profession.  The group that the ASA has assembled to follow and advocate on our behalf is outstanding.  We heard presentations from the Indiana State Health Commissioner, a City Councilman from Missouri, two US senators that are on the US Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, our own Chief Advocacy Officer, the South Carolina Attorney General and Congressman and ASA member Andy Harris, MD who is on the US House Committee on Appropriations.  The amount of information presented was immense. 

The most pressing issue addressed and advocated for when visiting lawmakers from our districts was the VA nursing handbook. This policy would abandon the VA proven model of physician lead team-based anesthesia care in favor of a mandate for advance practice nurses to provide surgical anesthesia without physician involvement.   Our own member, Dr. Hilary Compton, Chief of Anesthesiology at the Albuquerque VA has join other Chiefs within the VA in signing a letter to express their concerns about patient safety if this policy is implemented.  In visiting with Senator Udall and staff members from Senator Heinrich and Congressman Pearce’s offices this issue was discussed in detail.  The ASA predicts that this VA nursing handbook issue will advance some time late summer or early fall and at that time all members of the ASA will be asked to advocate for the safety of VA patients and our VA anesthesiology colleagues.

I found this conference to be outstanding and enlightening and would encourage any member of the NMSA to attend it.   I also can appreciate members who may not have the time or energy to devote to advocacy and I strongly encourage those members to contribute to the ASA PAC and the NMSA PAC.  If we don’t advocate for our patients and our profession, no one else will. 


Dr. Mary Billstrand