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House Passes Professional Designation for Nurse Anesthetists
Vote marks first time House has ever approved the CRNA bill
HARRISBURG (June 15, 2021) --- For the first time ever --- and after more than a decade of legislative review --- the state House of Representatives passed legislation that would finally grant formal title recognition to certified registered nurse anesthetists.
“This is more than just a vote of approval,” said Matt McCoy, DNP, CRNA, President of the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA), which represents more than 3,700 CRNAs and students in the state. “This is a monumental achievement for CRNAs in Pennsylvania.”
Pennsylvania is one of just two states that fails 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 their advanced education and specialized training.
Last week, the House Professional Licensure Committee unanimously approved the measure (H.B. 931), sponsored by state Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne). With passage by the full House, the measure now goes to the Senate, which is advancing its own companion measure (S.B. 416), sponsored by state Sen. John Gordner (R-Columbia).
The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee unanimously approved Gordner’s measure last week. It is on track for consideration by the full Senate this week.
This is the farthest a CRNA title bill has ever advanced in the House, and it marks the first time that professional designation legislation for CRNAs has advanced beyond the committees in both chambers during the same legislative session.
Lack of professional designation brings logistical and financial challenges for CRNAs.
Pennsylvania-based 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” of talented health-care professionals.
The pandemic revealed additional shortcomings.
In response to COVID-19, many CRNAs wanted to contribute more to the facilities where they work but could not. Likewise, hospitals and other health-care institutions wanted to use CRNAs to their fullest capacity during a time of crisis but could not. Many facilities felt restricted by the way the state licenses CRNAs and would not allow nurse anesthetists to provide advanced, critical care services, even though it is within their clinical experience and scope of practice.
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.
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.