by JILL MASON-NGUYEN || When health care policy debates ignite, lawmakers rely on the experts to provide facts, evidence and truthful analysis that can help them make informed decisions about improving our healthcare system.
Currently, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in South Carolina are using evidence and data to advocate for the right to practice to the full extent of their education, training, certification, and licensure for the benefit of patients. Meanwhile, physician anesthesiologists are piling up mountains of misinformation in a misguided effort to maintain the status quo – a current state of affairs that has South Carolina ranked 45th out of 50 states in health care quality.
In South Carolina, the Nurse Practice Act (NPA) requires CRNAs to practice under the supervision of physicians, even though research has shown there is no patient benefit to having such a requirement. H. 4278 and S. 563 would modernize the NPA by removing this requirement to make it reflect reality.
Currently, forty states and the District of Columbia have no supervision requirement concerning nurse anesthetists in nurse practice acts, board of nursing rules/regulations, medical practice acts, board of medicine rules/regulations, or their generic equivalents. We believe South Carolina should be added to that list this year.
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(Via: South Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists/ Facebook)
CRNAs are highly educated, advanced practice registered nurses who deliver anesthesia to patients the same ways and for the same types of procedures as anesthesiologists. If you’ve ever had surgery or delivered a baby, it’s likely a CRNA administered your anesthesia and stayed with you throughout your procedure.
CRNAs receive between seven and eight-and-a-half years of education related to their specialty and approximately 9,000 hours of clinical training prior to receiving an advanced degree. We pass a National Certification Examination and are re-certified every four years, staying current on the latest anesthesia techniques and technology.
CRNAs also obtain an average of 2.9 years of critical care experience before even entering a nurse anesthesia program. We are the only anesthesia professionals who start our anesthesia education knowing how to manage critical medical events.
Not surprisingly, researchers consistently find anesthesia care to be equally safe whether provided by CRNAs, anesthesiologists, or both working together.
One of the most important benefits of allowing CRNAs to work to their full scope of practice is controlling health care costs. Anesthesiologists make two-and-a-half times more money than CRNAs, even though anesthesiologists often don’t provide hands-on patient care. Because Medicare reimburses the same for an anesthesia service whether regardless of provider, the higher compensation of an anesthesiologist is borne by the hospital, health care facility or the patient.
Additionally, research has confirmed that a CRNA working as the sole anesthesia provider is at least 25 percent more cost-effective than any other anesthesia delivery model.
Shamefully, the anesthesiologists’ tactics do not end with mere falsehoods. In some nurse anesthesia programs, they are meting out punishment to student nurse anesthetists by restricting them from performing procedures required for graduation – simply because they advocated for their future profession. Likewise, anesthesiologists in many hospitals across South Carolina are retaliating against CRNAs by attempting to restrict their scope of practice. One must ask, “How can such self-serving actions be good for patients in our state?”
South Carolinians deserve to know the facts. At the end of the day, CRNAs are safe, high-quality, cost-effective and truthful health care professionals. After all, there’s a reason why for eighteen consecutive years Americans have rated nurses highest for honesty and ethics in the respected Gallup poll.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jill Mason-Nguyen, DNAP, MSN, CRNA, COI, is President of the South Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists and a practicing CRNA in South Carolina.
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