CO Evaluates Surgical Technologist Registry

Publish Date: January 20, 2016


The department which manages the surgical technologist and assistant registry program recommended letting the registry expire, while the legislative committee reviewing the program voted to extend the program for five more years.

The surgical assistant and surgical technologist registry, which is housed within Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), is currently up for sunset review. Colorado, like many other states, attaches sunset provisions to many programs and regulations. A sunset provision repeals all or part of a law after a specific date, unless the legislature affirmatively acts to extend it. Programs scheduled for sunset review receive a comprehensive analysis. The review includes a thorough dialogue with agency officials, representatives of the regulated profession and other stakeholders.

AORN was identified as a stakeholder and participated in conversations with DORA in the summer and fall of 2015. AORN provided perspective on how the operating room functions and how the RN Circulator interacts with surgical technologists. DORA released their sunset review report in fall of 2015, which recommended letting the registry program sunset. DORA found:

“Surgical assistants and surgical technologists work in tightly controlled, highly regulated environments, namely, hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. These facilities are subject to state regulations; many are also subject to federal rules and voluntary accreditation standards. A DORA survey revealed that health facilities are already monitoring the education, qualifications, and backgrounds of their applicants to a far greater degree than the Division is. In light of this fact, oversight by the state seems duplicative at best. Given the considerable government oversight of health facilities, the mandatory registration program does not comport with the second sunset criterion that regulation should be the least restrictive consistent with the public interest, considering other regulatory mechanisms.”

However, Colorado has a unique provision in its regulation requiring registration of surgical assistants and surgical technologists that allows employers to share information with other current and prospective employers about surgical assistants and surgical technologists without fear of reprisal when a registrant has been involved in drug diversion, drug tampering, patient abuse, violation of drug or alcohol policies, or violent crimes. DORA recommended renewing this “safe harbor” provision.

On January 19, 2016, DORA presented its Surgical Technologist and Surgical Assistant Sunset Review and recommendation to the House Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee. After deliberation and other witness testimony, the Committee amended the bill that was drafted from the DORA review to extend the sunset, and thus the registry and “safe harbor” section, until 2021. The bill will now start the normal legislative process. AORN will closely monitor it and provide updates as it progresses. If you have questions, you may contact Danielle Glover, Legal & Government Affairs Manager.