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Fox News must make amends for attack on nurses in VA report

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On June 1, 2016, Fox News posted a video report headlined "Vets may have to settle for a visit with the nurse at the VA," which featured statements about a proposed rule change by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would "allow highly trained nurses to act as doctors, and even administer anesthesia without a doctor's supervision." 

The video report was apparently sparked by a June 1 press conference at which physician anesthesiologist groups voiced their objections to the rule. The report gave these physicians free rein to espouse their unsupported views, with no nursing response beyond a limited segment featuring a nurse practitioner (NP) assuring viewers somewhat vaguely that NPs do have clinical experience. The piece failed to convey that advanced practice nurses like NPs are graduate-educated health professionals with independent licenses and an autonomous nursing practice model, which is broader and more holistic than the medical model.

There was no response from any nursing group. Fox News ignored the powerful rebuttal of the physicians’ arguments by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) that was issued on the same day as the anesthesiologists' press conference. Fox failed to convey that certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) have years of education specifically aimed at this work, which they have been doing safely for decades--they are not suddenly being asked to give anesthesia after learning about it in an extra night class or two. The AANA referred to the latest study showing that physician "supervision" of nurse anesthetists makes no difference to patient safety and is therefore unnecessary.

We urge Fox News to apologize for its unbalanced report, including the insulting suggestions that patients would be "settling" and that the nurses would be "act[ing] as doctors." We also expect Fox News to make amends for this report by running a followup video report with AANA president Juan Quintana, RN, DNP, CRNA, himself a military veteran, to allow nurses the opportunity to defend themselves from these attacks and let the public know about the research that shows they are safe, effective science professionals.

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