PARK RIDGE, ILLINOIS – The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is urging the VA to reopen its final rule to grant Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) the authority to practice to the full scope of their education, training, certification and licensure. The AANA’s request comes in light of a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), released yesterday, that reveals the VA has a rampant anesthesia provider shortage, limiting access to care for veterans.
In the just-released OIG report, anesthesiology was listed as having a provider shortage at 31 of 141 surveyed facilities throughout the VHA, meaning 22 percent of facilities have an identified shortage of anesthesia providers, in direct contrast to the VA final rule that denied nurse anesthetists full practice authority. The December 2016 final rule stated the denial was not due to any lack of capability on nurse anesthetists, saying “[t]he safety of CRNA services has long been recognized by the VHA and underscored by peer-reviewed scientific studies, including a major study published in Health Affairs which found that anesthesia care by CRNAs was equally safe with or without physician supervision,” but because there is “no shortage of physician anesthesiologists in VA and the current system allows for sufficient flexibility to address the needs of all VA hospitals.”
The VA final rule also stated that if the agency learns “of access problems in the area of anesthesia care in specific facilities or more generally that would benefit from advanced practice authority, now or in the future, or if other relevant circumstances change, we will consider a follow-up rulemaking to address granting full practice authority to CRNAs."
“Improving the VA’s ability to provide better, faster care to our veterans doesn’t require increasing budgets or staff,” said AANA President Bruce Weiner, DNP, MSNA, CRNA. “One solution has been there all along, and is as simple as removing barriers to CRNAs’ ability to practice to the full extent of their education, training, certification and licensure.”
With roughly 900 CRNAs in the VHA system, CRNA full practice authority would greatly increase the access to surgical and anesthesia care the VHA could provide for its veterans.
“Veterans are still waiting entirely too long to receive the quality healthcare they deserve and have earned in service to our country. The AANA strongly urges the VA to solve this problem by using readily available healthcare resources – such as CRNAs – to the full extent of their practice authority,” said Weiner.
About the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Founded in 1931 and located in Park Ridge, Ill., and Washington, D.C., the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is the professional organization representing more than 52,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and student registered nurse anesthetists across the United States. As advanced practice registered nurses, CRNAs are anesthesia experts who administer more than 43 million anesthetics to patients in the United States each year and are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America. In some states, CRNAs are the sole anesthesia professionals in nearly 100 percent of rural hospitals. For more information, visit www.aana.com and www.future-of-anesthesia-care-today.com.