Pennsylvania Requires Nurse Circulators in the OR

The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN), announces its support for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s signing of HB 1641 requiring the presence of a circulating nurse in certain operating rooms. 

The bill, signed into law on June 16, applies to any hospital or class C ambulatory surgical facility. It states that only a registered nurse, licensed in the state of Pennsylvania and qualified by training and experience in operating room nursing, can function as a circulating nurse during all surgical procedures performed in a healthcare facility under general anesthesia or deep sedation in a healthcare facility’s operating room.

The circulating nurse is responsible for managing the nursing care of the patient within the OR and coordinating the needs of the surgical team with other necessary care providers. In the operating room, most patients are anesthetized or sedated and are powerless to make decisions on their own behalf during the intraoperative phase. The circulating nurse serves as the patient advocate while the patient is least able to care for him or herself.

“Every patient deserves a perioperative RN during their surgical experience,” stated AORN Executive Director/CEO Linda Groah, RN, MSN, CNOR, NEA-BC FAAN, “and having an RN in the OR as circulating nurse is one way to help ensure that high quality nursing care is provided.”

AORN, the largest membership organization of operating room nurses in the United States, is working to ensure that every state has laws or regulations in place that are specific to having a registered nurse serve as the circulator in hospitals.  With the signing of an RN circulator bill in Connecticut earlier this month, and passage in Pennsylvania, there are now 22 states with such regulation and there are 16 states with similar language for ambulatory surgery centers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has regulations related to the RN as Circulator although those regulations are not as comprehensive as the AORN legislative priority.