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Allied Health Certification on the Table

Publish Date: 6/26/2013

Legislators in New York have again approved certification requirements for allied health care providers. Senate Bill 5185 would require certification for New York surgical technologists and Assembly Bill 878 would require the same for central service technicians.

Senate Bill 5185: Surgical Technologist Certification 

SB5185 passed the Assembly and the Senate in June and is expected to reach Governor Cuomo’s desk for action later this summer. If signed, the bill will become effective 18 months after signature.

The bill details the tasks and functions that are considered “surgical technology,” such as 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 or 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.

Surgical technologists may only perform tasks and functions under the direction and supervision of an appropriately licensed health 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.

If the bill is signed by the Governor, New York hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers will not be able to employ or contract with a surgical technologist unless the individual has completed an accredited educational program for surgical technologists and is certified. Surgical technologists who work for the federal government, are trained in the military, or who worked as a surgical technologist for two of the past four years are exempt from the certification requirement. New graduates will have 12 months to obtain certification.

The bill also requires surgical technologists to complete 15 hours of continuing education annually to remain qualified to work as a surgical technologist.

If SB 5185 is signed, New York will join Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas in requiring certification of surgical technologists.

Assembly Bill 878: Central Service Technician Certification 

AB878 is also headed to Governor Cuomo for consideration after passing both the Assembly and the Senate. Like the surgical technologist bill, if signed it will become effective 18 months after signature.

AB 878 recognizes “central service technicians” as persons who provide the services of decontamination, preparation, packaging, sterilization, and storage and distribution of reusable medical instrumentation or devices in hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. If signed, New York hospitals and ASCs 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. Central service technicians who worked as a central service technician for one of the past four years prior to the bill’s effective date are exempted from the certification requirement, as are students.

Central service technicians who are not certified and do not meet the grandfathering exception will have 18 months to obtain certification. Central service technicians will also be required to complete ten hours of continuing education each year.

Health care facilities will be allowed to employ or contract with an individual who has not met one of the above requirements if the facility made a diligent and thorough effort to hire someone who has. That person would be required to become certified within two years of the start of employment or contract for their duties.

Should Governor Cuomo sign the bill, New York will become the second state after New Jersey to require certification of central service technicians.

AORN recognizes that it takes a team to care for the perioperative patient. Effective perioperative care teams consist of multi-skilled direct and indirect care providers and support personnel working in a collaborative partnership to achieve expected patient outcomes and satisfaction. Each of the members of the perioperative team should have the appropriate education and competency. Certification of allied health care providers such as surgical technologists and central service technicians is consistent with AORN’s position statement, Allied Health Care Providers and Support Personnel in the Perioperative Practice Setting.

It is important for perioperative nurses in New York to review their facility’s policies and procedures with respect to supervision of surgical technologists and collaboration with central sterile supply. Facility policy should be clear that surgical technologists serving in the scrub role function under the direct supervision of the registered nurse circulator in the room. Facility policy should also require collaboration between sterile processing departments, nursing staff in surgical services and infection control, and the department of surgery.

AORN Government Affairs monitors and responds to legislation affecting perioperative nursing practice and surgery patients in all 50 states. Find out what is happening in your state here.

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