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Senate Unanimously Approves CRNA Designation Bill;
Legislation Sent to House for Consideration
HARRISBURG (June 24, 2019) --- In the final days of legislative session before the General Assembly adjourns for summer, the state Senate today unanimously approved a measure (S.B. 325) that would formally recognize certified registered nurse anesthetists as “CRNAs” under Pennsylvania statute.
Pennsylvania remains one of just two states (New York is the other) that do not recognize CRNAs in some fashion. Under the state’s Professional Nursing Law, there is no official definition for “certified registered nurse anesthetist,” meaning these professionals are recognized only as registered nurses.
The measure, which is sponsored by state Sen. John R. Gordner (R-Columbia), now goes to the House, where Rep. Tarah Toohil is sponsoring a companion measure (H.B. 1064).
“We are so grateful to these legislative champions for all the work they are doing to advance the profession of nurse anesthetists and ensure these advanced practice nurses finally get the recognition they deserve,” said Derek Reckard, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists, which represents more than 3,700 CRNAs and students in Pennsylvania.
These professional designation bills are simple, non-controversial title recognition measures, which is why similar measures have passed in previous legislative sessions. This is the second consecutive legislative session that Gordner’s measure passed the Senate, and the third time the full Senate has approved the measure. The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee approved the bill June 12.
CRNAs operate safely in every setting where anesthesia is administered, including: hospital operating and delivery rooms; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and plastic surgeons; pain management centers and more.
The lack of professional designation brings logistical and financial challenges for CRNAs.
Pennsylvania CRNAs who serve in the military must secure designation in another state to serve as an armed forces anesthesia provider because the commonwealth does not recognize CRNAs. Pennsylvania-based military CRNAs pay more traveling out of state to obtain credits or meet other legal requirements to stay licensed and credentialed. They also pay more out-of-pocket expenses renewing multiple licenses.
Pennsylvania CRNAs also cannot assist on rapid response teams in states affected by natural disasters because they lack the formal credentials.
Moreover, with 13 nurse anesthetist programs here, Pennsylvania ranks among the top draws nationally for CRNA students. But that leadership position in education and training is at risk once students realize they face hurdles to getting credentialed after graduation.
After receiving training in Pennsylvania, many CRNAs relocate to states where they are fully recognized and credentialed for clinical practice, contributing to “brain drain.”
“The time is now to finally get this bill over the finish line,” Reckard said. “Every CRNA in Pennsylvania is committed to working with members of the House of Representatives to help them understand how important this bill is to keeping patients safe, ensuring access to quality care and reigning in rising health-care costs.”