Increasing access to anesthesia care
Earlier this year, legislation was filed in the Florida House and Senate to allow Florida’s certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to bring practice in line with regulations and determine the most appropriate type of anesthesia to be administered to a patient in collaboration with the patient’s physician and medical staff. Critical to evaluating this proposal, and any proposal impacting health care providers for that matter, is the fact that Florida is facing a dwindling health care workforce that cannot meet the growing demand for care. We are seeing a resolute effort, spearheaded by our state lawmakers and supported by key industry groups, to lower the cost barriers and increase access to care, especially in medically underserved areas where patients need it the most. We have already seen legislation move swiftly through the process that would allow for more health care professionals to expand their services and treat more patients in a streamlined manner. And while state leaders continue their discussion on whether or not to proceed with the proposed Medicaid expansion for Florida’s residents, a key factor will be an adequate, highly skilled and well-trained health care workforce to be able to meet the already growing demand for care. Florida’s CRNAs deliver safe anesthesia care, lessening the burden on an already overburdened health care system. National studies have concluded that anesthesia care provided by nurse anesthetists working without physician supervision is just as safe as anesthesia provided under physician supervision. CRNAs are the sole anesthesia providers in many rural hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, physician’s offices, as well as military front lines, military hospitals and navy ships. If allowed to practice to the full extent of their education and training in collaboration with our fellow health care professionals, CRNAs can help improve the quality of patient care, increase patient satisfaction and reduce health care costs for Floridians.The quality of anesthesia care that CRNAs provide has been validated time and time again by independent studies and irrefutable evidence. The June 2010 edition of the Journal of Nursing Economic$ published a groundbreaking study that confirmed CRNAs provide high-quality, cost-effective patient care. A year later, the 2011 Institute of Medicine report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” strongly supported the argument that advanced practice registered nurses, such as CRNAs, should play a critical role in increasing patient access to quality, affordable health care. While state leaders weigh the options on what changes should be made to our overall health care industry, CRNAs must be recognized as a vital part of the solution to help alleviate Florida’s health care workforce challenges. CRNAs have the ability to bring about pivotal change to help contain health care costs and significantly increase patient access to anesthesia care.
Bruce Weiner, CRNA, MS, is president of the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists.