Newswise — LITTLE ROCK, AR (ARANA)—As healthcare providers across Arkansas continue to meet the needs of patients impacted by COVID-19 or requiring surgery, state legislators are considering bills that will affect patients’ access to affordable care.

Debra Varela, DNP, CRNA, president of Arkansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists (ARANA), is calling on the Arkansas General Assembly to pass legislation to permit Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) to practice without unnecessary barriers.

“’Keeping your hometown healthy’ is more than a state slogan. For CRNAs, it’s a call to action,” said Varela. As advanced practice registered nurses, “CRNAs expertly care for the whole patient, not just their condition, and make patient care more affordable and accessible.”

CRNAs are high-need healthcare providers in rural Arkansas, according to Varela. Nearly 800 CRNAs practice across Arkansas, caring for critically ill patients in emergency rooms and assisting ICU teams with intubations and sedation procedures for COVID-19 patients, as well as providing expert anesthesia care.

“Removing barriers to CRNA practice will help hospitals and other critical care facilities to maximize their workforce and increase access to safe, affordable care for our patients. Rural hospitals are essential to Arkansas’ economy and rely on CRNAs for anesthesia care,” said Varela.

There are 41 U.S. states that do not require physician supervision of CRNAs in their nursing laws and rules. CRNAs are qualified to make decisions regarding all aspects of anesthesia care based on their education, licensure, and certification. Leading health policy journals have demonstrated CRNAs’ safety record and found no “statistical difference in safety to any other anesthesia care model,” said Varela.

“In addition to being the predominant anesthesia providers in rural settings, studies have shown CRNAs acting as the sole anesthesia provider are the most cost-effective model for anesthesia delivery,” said Varela. “There is no measurable difference in the quality of care between CRNAs and other anesthesia providers.”

Nurse anesthetists have been safely providing anesthesia in the U.S. for more than 150 years. CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is administered including traditional hospital surgical and obstetrical suites, critical access hospitals, and ambulatory surgical centers. CRNAs also practice in the offices of dentists, ophthalmologists and plastic surgeons.