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Allied Health Bills Signed into Law

Publish Date: 8/7/2013

On August 1, 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed two pieces of legislation into law, both of which will require certification of allied health care providers. Under the new laws, surgical technologists and central service technicians will be required to become certified as well as complete annual continuing education to remain qualified to work. Both laws are expected to become effective on January 1, 2015.

Central Service Technician Certification 

The sponsors of the central service technician legislation discussed its importance. "Today, New York patients in our health care facilities will be safer from the spread of infections. Our central service technicians are the first line of defense in maintaining quality control to prevent and control the spread of infection," said Senator Mark Grisanti. Assemblyman Harry Bronson added, "As many families know, all aspects of medicine have become more technical and require better training for all medical providers. This legislation will ensure that central service technicians have the proper training on how to clean medical equipment to prevent and control the spread of infection and protect our families."

The new central service technician certification law recognizes “central service technician” as a person who provides the services of decontamination, preparation, packaging, sterilization, and storage and distribution of reusable medical instrumentation or devices in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers.

To function as a central service technician, a person must pass a nationally accredited central service exam and hold and maintain either the certified registered central service technician credential or the certified sterile processing and distribution technician credential. Central service technicians will also be required to complete ten hours of continuing education annually.

Students and central service technicians who were employed as a central service technician for one of the four years prior to the effective date of the law will be exempted from the certification requirement. Central service technicians who are not certified and do not meet the grandfathering exception will have 18 months to become certified.

New York hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers will not be allowed to employ or contract for the services of a central service technician unless the individual has passed an accredited central service exam and is certified. However, if a facility is unable to employ a sufficient number of central service technicians who meet the requirements, it can contract or employ a person who does not meet the requirements if it makes a written record of its efforts and the person meets the requirements within two years of the start of employment.

New York is only the second state after New Jersey to require certification for central service technicians.

Surgical Technologist Certification 

New York is the seventh state to require certification of surgical technologists, joining Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

The new law defines surgical technologists and sets forth the tasks and functions surgical technologists will be allowed to perform including assisting health care professionals to prepare the operating room and sterile field, assisting health care professionals to perform non-invasive prepping of the skin’s surface, holding a retractor after placement by a healthcare professional, and anticipating instrument needs of the surgeon. Surgical technologists may not retract tissue to expose the operating field, administer medication by any route, place hemostatic instruments or devices or apply cautery to tie off bleeders, apply sutures or assist with or perform wound closure, assist the surgeon in identifying structures that should not be ligated, or apply wound dressings.

To function as a surgical technologist, a person must complete a nationally accredited educational program for surgical technologists and hold and maintain a certified surgical technologist credential. Surgical technologists who are trained in the U.S. military, work for the federal government, or who worked as a surgical technologist for one of the past four years are exempt from the certification requirement.

Hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers in New York will not be allowed to employ or contract for the services of a surgical technologist unless the individual has completed an accredited surgical technologist educational program and is certified. However, if a facility is unable to employ a sufficient number of surgical technologists who meet the requirements, it can contract or employ a person who does not meet the requirements if it makes a written record of its records and the person meets the requirements within two years of the start of employment.

Under the new law, surgical technologists may only perform tasks and functions under the direction and supervision of an appropriately licensed heath care professional participating in the surgery, such as the registered nurse circulator. Existing New York and federal regulations also confirm that the surgical technologist works under the supervision of the registered nurse.

New York perioperative nurses must work within their facilities to ensure appropriate policies and procedures are in place concerning allied health care providers. Facility policies need to guarantee the registered nurse circulator’s supervisory authority over surgical technologists performing in the scrub role, and should make it clear the surgical technologist works under the supervision of the registered nurse circulator in the room. For central service supply, facility policy should also require collaboration between sterile processing departments, nursing staff in surgical services and infection control, and the department of surgery. The attention that will be paid to the enactment of both these bills presents a perfect opportunity for perioperative nurses and surgical services administrators to revisit and update supervision policies for the surgical suite.

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