Newswise — PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AANA)— Arkansas patients now have increased access to safe, affordable care with the signing of HB 1198 by Governor Asa Hutchinson. The law removes supervision requirements for nurse anesthetists and grants them the authority to work in consultation with healthcare providers in the delivery of anesthesia.

Arkansas is now the 42nd state that does not require physician supervision of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in the state nurse practice act. 

“Removing barriers to CRNA practice will allow hospitals and other critical care facilities to maximize their workforce and increase access to safe, affordable care for our patients,” said Debra Varela, DNP, CRNA, president of Arkansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists (ARANA). “By signing this important legislation, Arkansas recognizes that CRNAs are qualified to make decisions regarding all aspects of anesthesia care based on their education, licensure, and certification.”

Anesthesia services are provided solely by CRNAs in Arkansas’s critical access hospitals offering surgical services and 90% of its rural hospitals.  They comprise 68% of the state’s anesthesia care providers.

“’Keeping your hometown healthy’ is more than a state slogan. For CRNAs, it’s a call to action,” said President Varela. “CRNAs expertly care for the whole patient, not just their condition, and make patient care more affordable and accessible. In a predominantly rural state such as ours, this access to surgical, obstetrical and emergency services close to home is vital.”

Consistent with the statute, the new law provides that a nurse anesthetist may, within the scope of practice, administer drugs preoperatively and postoperatively in connection with an anesthetic or other operative or invasive procedure in consultation with a physician, dentist or other person lawfully entitled to order anesthesia.

“The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) applauds Gov. Hutchinson for recognizing the important role CRNAs have in delivery safe anesthesia care to the residents of Arkansas,” said Steven M. Sertich, CRNA, MAE, JD, Esquire, AANA president. “Increased demand, limited resources, and the rural nature of the state dictate that a system capable of meeting the needs of all Arkansans be maintained and this law provides that.”

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