Two bills would recognize CRNAs’ value in safe, reliable, affordable care
HARRISBURG (April 14, 2015) — Pennsylvania is one of just four states that does not formally recognize “Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist” in statute, despite their advanced training and long history as the main hands-on provider of anesthesia care. Currently, CRNAs are recognized only as “Registered Nurses” under the state’s Professional Nursing Law.
The Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA), which represents more than 3,000 CRNAs and students, wants to change that. Dozens of CRNAs visited Harrisburg today to urge legislators to support two simple professional designation bills that would formally recognize “Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist” under Pennsylvania statute.
The companion measures (S.B. 481 and H.B. 764) are sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland/York), chairwoman of the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee, and House Majority Whip Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster). Both have been longtime advocates for CRNAs.
Pennsylvania actually draws more certified registered nurse anesthetist students than any other state — there are 13 nurse anesthetist programs in the commonwealth. But because Pennsylvania does not have an official CRNA designation in statute, many graduating students wait for placement, as long as six months or more, when they return home. That’s because state boards must verify that these students meet the requirements necessary to be classified appropriately in those states.
Defining CRNA in Pennsylvania law would carry across borders, help these students get placed so they can start working immediately and maintain the commonwealth’s professional leadership.
“CRNAs have been the main hands-on provider of anesthesia care for more than 150 years. That’s a history that dates back to the Civil War,” said Michael Neft, CRNA, DNP, MHA and president of PANA. “CRNAs deserve recognition for the role they play in ensuring safe, reliable, affordable care.”
Training and education programs are rigorous.
In Pennsylvania, nurse anesthetists must obtain a bachelor’s degree, graduate with a minimum of a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia accredited program, complete additional hours of clinical work (the average student nurse anesthetist completes almost 2,500 clinical hours) and pass a national exam in order to be able to practice. CRNAs must be a Registered Nurse (RN), and they must be recertified every two years. Nurse anesthetists’ recertification includes meeting advanced practice requirements and obtaining a minimum of 40 continuing education credits.
Because of this training and experience, numerous medical studies show there is no statistical difference in patient outcomes when a nurse anesthetist provides treatment with or without an anesthesiologist present. In fact, these studies by nationally recognized health-care policy and research organizations prove that CRNAs provide high-quality care, even for rare and difficult procedures.
As health-care demands continue to grow, increasing the number of CRNAs will be a key to containing costs while maintaining quality care. The Federal Trade Commission recently cautioned states against policies that restrict advanced-practice nurses’ work.
Across the country, CRNAs safely administer more than 34 million anesthetics to patients in the United States each year.
CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural America. In fact, more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals rely on CRNAs to provide anesthesia care. Without these advanced practice nurses, some 1,500 facilities would be unable to maintain trauma stabilization and surgical and obstetrical capabilities, forcing many rural Americans to travel long distances for such services.