The U.S. legal system treats nurse anesthetists as professionals who, because of their specialized education and qualifications, set their own standard of care. When courts need to establish this standard of care, qualified experts articulate current professional standards and also explain and elucidate technical concepts about which nonexpert witnesses cannot testify. Qualified Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) provide expert testimony to assist judges, juries, and other triers of fact to understand the evidence in a case and to make factual determinations, especially where the issues are beyond the comprehension or knowledge of a lay person.
CRNAs give expert testimony in state regulatory disciplinary proceedings as well as medical malpractice actions. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists believes that the following guidelines are applicable to CRNAs who serve as expert witnesses on the subject of nurse anesthesia:
The CRNA expert witness should currently be certified or recertified by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists or the Council on Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.
The CRNA should be knowledgeable about the relevant standard of care.
The CRNA should have expertise in the area in which he or she is testifying.
The CRNA expert witness should accurately represent his or her qualifications, relevant background and experience.
Fees for expert testimony should be for time spent in preparing and giving testimony and should not be contingent upon the outcome of the legal action.
Adopted by AANA Board of Directors June 1995.
Reaffirmed by AANA Board of Directors February 2005.