Bill in legislature concerns area doctors

ROCHESTER, Minn. — This current Minnesota legislative session is moving fast. That is because leaders are trying to get things done during a session that is cut short this year.

But there is a bill that many in our area hope does not get rushed through. The bill that leaders are concerned about could literally impact people’s lives.

It involves a very specialized practice performed a few thousand times a year around the state. It is a type of surgery that is not exactly easy.

“In some of the most common procedures we actually enter in on the back of the spine and come up right next to the spinal cord,” said Dr. Andrew Will, an interventional pain management specialist.

As you can imagine, it is a job that comes with a lot of liability.

“Being any bit too deep can cause injury to the spinal cord and paralysis and in some cases that can even lead to death,” Will said.

“I have anywhere from an 11-year-old in my practice to somebody who’s 100-year-old and so there’s a lot of complexity in between that and I’m trained to deal with that complexity,” said Dr. Kristen Zeller, an interventional pain management specialist.

That is why Zeller and Will are concerned about a bill making its way through the Minnesota legislature.

It would allow a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) to diagnose and perform these procedures. Typically they are left for those who have nearly twice as much education.

“They work in collaboration. They also, under current Minnesota law, in order to prescribe medications, they need a written prescribing agreement with a physician,” said State Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester.

There are real-world problems with that crop-up. For example, sometimes there are rural areas where physicians just will not go so there are those who see the benefit of allowing the nurses to do the procedure.

Some state leaders say this part of the bill should be looked at more closely

“There are some concerns and things need to be addressed, but when we’re doing that, we have to make sure that we don’t cause or inject some issue or problem,” said State Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron.

Especially when Zeller says most of her colleagues are unaware of what is going on at the capitol.

“Physicians aren’t aware it’s happening, nurses are not even aware it’s happening. There’s a very small subgroup that even know, like Dr. Will said that it’s piggybacking on,” Zeller said.

Pain physicians, the ones who currently do these procedures, must have a total of 14 years of training. That list includes the 8 years of pre-med and medical school, residency and another related fellowship.

Compare that to the nurses in this bill, who have seven years of training.

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