This letter was published in the Times Leader on May 16, 2019.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists are the best-kept secret in health care. We’re usually the last people patients see before a procedure begins and the first to greet them when they awake. That’s because we’re there by their side for every heartbeat, every breath.
We’re so good at anesthetizing our patients that they sometimes don’t remember us. The state legislature often forgets us as well.
Pennsylvania is one of just two states that fail to formally recognize “certified registered nurse anesthetist” in some form. Because there is no definition for nurse anesthetists under the state’s Professional Nursing Law, CRNAs are recognized only as registered nurses, despite the advanced, specialized training and extra education needed to practice.
That brings logistical and financial challenges.
Pennsylvania CRNAs who serve in the military must secure designation in another state to provide anesthesia in the armed services because we do not officially recognize CRNAs here. We cannot assist on rapid response teams in states affected by natural disasters because we lack formal credentials. After receiving training in Pennsylvania, a national leader with 13 nurse anesthetist programs, many CRNAs relocate to states where they can utilize the full scope of their education and training in clinical practices, contributing to “brain drain.”
Fortunately, bipartisan measures, including House Bill 1064 sponsored by state Rep. Tarah Toohil, serve as a wake-up call to address these issues. It’s long past time to finally recognize the importance of CRNAs and appreciate the value of the men and women behind the surgical masks.