Newswise — PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AANA)—Oklahoma is now the 19th state to opt out from federal regulations that require physician supervision of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs). The governors of 18 states and Guam have exercised such exemptions prior to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) suspension for all states during the COVID-19 health crisis. 

“The signing of the opt-out in Oklahoma removes unnecessary red tape hindering access to care and optimizes our healthcare team. Oklahoma recognizes the critical need to ensure our state can provide care to every citizen at all times, not just during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Jenny Schmitt, MS, CRNA, APRN, immediate past president of the Oklahoma Association of Nurse Anesthetists (OANA).   

In a July 29 letter to CMS administrators, Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt wrote that the “Oklahoma Standard is responding to the [pandemic] by ensuring that red tape is removed that precludes Oklahomans from receiving quality health care that Oklahomans deserve.” 

“We know this will enhance and improve access to care throughout Oklahoma, particularly in the rural areas,” wrote Governor Stitt. “I have concluded this exemption to be consistent with Oklahoma law and to be in the best interest of all Oklahomans, rural communities and our hospital’s statewide.” 

During the pandemic, nurse anesthetists across the country have, in addition to providing top-of-the-line anesthesia care, served as experts in airway management, hemodynamic monitoring, management of patients on ventilators, and overall management of critically ill patients. CRNAs have been essential in addressing the deadliest part of COVID-19. 

This past May, Oklahoma’s state legislature unanimously passed a bill enabling CRNAs to administer anesthesia in collaboration with rather than under the supervision of a physician. According to OANA President Jason Wauson, APRN-CRNA, MSNA, Senate Bill 801 serves as “a historic piece of legislation” that fosters access to surgical and obstetrical care for Oklahomans. 

“The passing of Senate Bill 801 increases access to care for all Oklahomans, which helps move Oklahoma towards a ‘top ten state.’ Several physician and nursing communities worked together to see SB 801 pass. Collaboration is key in healthcare,” said Schmitt, adding that, during this pandemic, “it is critical for CRNAs to have flexibility to respond to any crisis. When we come together as a healthcare community to work for the best outcomes of our patients, we all can accomplish great things.”