Surgical first assistant licensure clears first round

Senators advanced a bill from general file April 4 that would establish a licensure process for surgical first assistants (SFA) in Nebraska.

Under LB721, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Roy Baker, the state Department of Health and Human Services would provide licensure for SFAs.

Baker said rural hospitals often have only one surgeon in an operating room and historically have delegated specific tasks to a well-trained assistant—often a nurse. However, he said, a recent audit at Sidney Regional Medical Center discovered case law that prohibits a surgeon from delegating any tasks to an unlicensed individual in the operating room.

“To continue to use these people, it was determined that seeking licensure for SFAs was appropriate,” Baker said.

Under the bill, an applicant must:
• be certified as an SFA by an approved certifying body;
• successfully complete an SFA education or other experiential or training program approved by the state Board of Medicine and Surgery;
• pass a nationally recognized SFA examination adopted by the board; and
• have a high school diploma or equivalent as determined by the board.

A Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 29-0, would waive the education and examination requirements for some applicants. It would grandfather in an individual who submits evidence satisfactory to the board that he or she has been functioning primarily as an SFA in a licensed health care facility within the last five years prior to September 1, 2016.

Also exempt would be an individual who holds a current SFA certification issued by an approved certifying body or issued by another state that has standards substantially equivalent to Nebraska’s.

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, chairperson of the committee, said the amendment would provide a pathway for current staff across the state who serve as SFAs to become licensed.

“We need this legislation this year,” she said. “We need to clarify what happens and who can practice within their scope of practice within the operating room.”

The bill advanced to select file 30-0.

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