Newswise — PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AANA)— Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed S.B. 416 into law today, providing formal recognition for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in Pennsylvania nursing statutes. The legislation clarifies CRNA recognition and authority, ensuring patient access to safe, high quality anesthesia care.

“Before the signing of this law, Pennsylvania was one of just two states that failed to recognize CRNAs,” said Matt McCoy, DNP, CRNA, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA), which represents more than 3,700 CRNAs and students in the commonwealth. “By removing this barrier for CRNAs, the commonwealth expands access to care all Pennsylvania residents.”  

Under this law, CRNAs are defined as certified registered nurse anesthetists under the commonwealth’s Professional Nursing Law, acknowledging their advanced education and specialized training. Pennsylvania is home to 13 nurse anesthetist training programs, that provide extensive education and clinical training. In total, CRNAs ultimately complete approximately 9,600 clinical hours including their intensive care unit clinical experience, anesthesia clinical training and undergraduate nursing clinical experience before board certification as a CRNA.

“Although Pennsylvania ranks among the top states nationally for CRNA students, without formal recognition, many relocate to other states after graduation where they can utilize the full scope of their education and training in clinical practices,” President McCoy said. “With the signing of this law, Gov. Wolf helps ensure that healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania have the resources to respond to the needs of its residents.”

CRNAs have the continued authority to perform anesthesia services in cooperation with a physician or dentist and will now be able to provide anesthesia services in cooperation with a podiatrist as well. The law additionally provides that CRNAs perform anesthesia services for a physician, dentist or podiatrist involved in a procedure for which anesthesia care is being provided, under the overall direction of a physician, dentist or podiatrist.

“Contemporary healthcare requires an agile, mobile workforce, whether responding to healthcare provider shortages across the country or assisting during times of disaster,” Steven M. Sertich, CRNA, MAE, JD, Esquire, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) president. “The AANA applauds Gov. Wolf for recognizing the important role CRNAs have in delivery safe anesthesia care.”

CRNA expertise in airway management, monitoring and management of patients on ventilators, placement of invasive lines, and overall management of critically ill patients uniquely positioned them to provide lifesaving care to those suffering from COVID-19. A recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report on patient services noted that CRNAs are among the top 20 specialties that served the most beneficiaries between March 2020 and June 2020, during the beginning of the pandemic.