PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AANA)To expand access to safe, high-quality anesthesia services to veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) requested that Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) be granted full practice authority permanently across U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. 

In a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, Underwood wrote: “As the United States continues its response and recovery efforts related to COVID-19, it is imperative that we have as many providers practicing to the full extent of their education and training as possible to ensure the highest level of access to care for our veterans. The April 2020 VHA directive providing a temporary expansion of full practice authority was an important first step, but the need for anesthesia services from CRNAs will extend beyond the current public health emergency. Therefore, I encourage VA to revisit the 2016 rule and permanently grant full practice authority to CRNAs in VA facilities in every state.” 

Granting Rep. Underwood’s request for CRNA full practice authority within the VA will ensure that CRNAs can continue to provide life-sustaining services to our nation’s veterans,” said Steven M. Sertich, CRNA, MAE, JD, Esquire, president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). 

As advanced practice registered nurses, CRNAs are uniquely trained to provide critical care, anesthesia, airway, and ventilation management expertise, making them one of the most highly valuable and sought-after healthcare providers during the pandemic. 

“Recognizing the full practice authority of CRNAs is consistent with countless recommendations and based on decades of scientific research,” said AANA CEO Randall D. Moore, DNP, CRNA, MBA. Moore is a retired commissioned officer of the Army Reserve with more than 22 years of military service. He served as an infantryman, combat medic, and nurse anesthetist and as an active-duty CRNA with the Army, including with forward surgical teams in Afghanistan. 

CRNAs are the primary providers of anesthesia to U.S. military personnel. The ability of CRNAs to provide high-quality care, even under the most difficult circumstances, has been recognized by every branch of the U.S. military. CRNAs have full practice authority in the Army, Navy, and Air Force and are the predominant provider of anesthesia on forward surgical teams and in combat support hospitals, where 90% of forward surgical teams are staffed by CRNAs. 

In March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) suspended the physician supervision requirements for CRNAs. Several governors also removed many barriers to CRNA practice. According to a January 2021 CMS report, CRNAs were among the top 20 specialties that served the most beneficiaries in non-telehealth care between March 2020 and June 2020—the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency.