Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists
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Two-thirds of Pa. Voters Support Professional Designation for CRNAs
Pennsylvania is one of just two states that fails to recognize nurse anesthetists in some form
HARRISBURG (April 20, 2020) --- Two-thirds (67%) of Pennsylvania voters support professional designation for certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), including those who identify as Republican (59%), Democrat (75%) and Independent (62%), according to results of a statewide public opinion poll conducted by G. Terry Madonna Opinion Research.
Pennsylvania is one of just two states that fails to recognize CRNAs in some form. Because there is no definition for “certified registered nurse anesthetist” under the state’s Professional Nursing Law, CRNAs are recognized only as registered nurses, not as CRNAs. That brings logistical and financial burdens, and it continues to inhibit our full response to this health-care pandemic.
In response to COVID-19, many CRNAs want to contribute more in the facilities where they work but can’t. Likewise, hospitals and other health-care institutions want to use CRNAs to their fullest capacity but can’t. Many of these facilities feel restricted by the way the state licenses CRNAs and will not allow nurse anesthetists to provide advanced, critical care services, even though it is within their education, training, clinical experience and scope of practice --- meaning this valuable health-care resource remains untapped during a time of crisis.
There are other challenges as well. Pennsylvania nurse anesthetists who serve in the military must secure designation in another state to provide anesthesia in the armed services. They cannot assist on rapid response teams in states affected by natural disasters because they lack formal credentials. And, after receiving training in Pennsylvania, many nurse anesthetists relocate to states with full credentialing, contributing to the state’s “brain drain.”
Bipartisan measures have been introduced in both chambers to recognize nurse anesthetists as “CRNAs” under Pennsylvania statute, with one bill (S.B. 325), sponsored by Sen. John R. Gordner (R-Columbia), receiving Senate approval last year. The legislation remains under consideration in the House Professional Licensure Committee.
“Broad support like this should give lawmakers the confidence they need to advance this measure and finally provide CRNAs with the professional designation they deserve,” said Angelarosa G. DiDonato, DNP, CRNA, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA), which represents more than 3,700 CRNAs and students in the state.
CRNAs are the hands-on providers of anesthesia care, operating 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.
Pennsylvania is recognized as a leader in anesthesia education and training, with 13 university-led programs. Yet, without an official CRNA designation in the state, many students leave the state. Some graduating students have to wait as long as six months to get credentialed in out-of-state facilities, as state boards must verify that the students meet the requirements necessary to be classified appropriately there.
According to the poll findings, respondents agree (47% agree to 28% disagree) that students who graduate from one of Pennsylvania’s education and training programs ultimately may leave the state because of issues with designation, going to a state that fully recognizes their profession. In the same respect, respondents agree (51% to 23%) that having professional designation would help to attract and retain these professionals.
According to the poll, respondents agree (45% to 40%) that there is no difference in patient outcomes when a CRNA provides treatment compared to an anesthesiologist. Numerous medical studies back them up. In fact, studies by nationally recognized health-care policy and research organizations prove that outcomes are nearly identical in these cases and that CRNAs provide high-quality care, even for rare and difficult procedures.
Not only are CRNAs critical to patient care, but they also help to reduce the cost of health care. Respondents also agree (46% to 40%) that CRNAs help to keep down health-care costs.
That is especially true in rural areas, where CRNAs are the main providers of anesthesia care, delivering essential health care and preventing gaps in services. CRNAs are far less costly for hospitals to employ, so rural hospitals, for example, are able to staff emergency services with in-house CRNAs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that every Pennsylvania resident has access to these needed services.
The poll, conducted by ProBusinessConnection, interviewed 650 registered voters in the state and includes both landline and cellular households. The margin of error is +/-4.8 percent.
For more information about certified registered nurse anesthetists in Pennsylvania, visit www.PANAforQualityCare.com or follow along on social media via Twitter at @PANACRNA or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PANACRNA.