Brother Norman Hipps: CRNAs deserve official designation in Pa.
Pennsylvania is home to hundreds of student nurse anesthetists, yet Pennsylvania is one of just two states that fail to officially recognize CRNAs in some form. Because there is no “certified registered nurse anesthetist” title under the state’s Professional Nursing Law, CRNAs are recognized only as registered nurses, not as CRNAs.
Fortunately, in the final days of legislative session before the General Assembly adjourned for summer, the state Senate approved a measure (Senate Bill 325) that would formally recognize CRNAs under state law.
This is the second consecutive legislative session that the measure passed the Senate, and the third time the full Senate has approved it. The House will have the opportunity to do the same when it returns to session this fall.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists are critical members of the health care team for everyone who faces the need for surgery. They provide an expert and assuring presence to patients in the moments before surgery begins and are the first to greet them when they awake.
Without formal designation, CRNAs have significant challenges.
Pennsylvania CRNAs who serve in the military must secure designation in another state to provide anesthesia in the armed services because we do not officially recognize CRNAs here. They cannot assist on rapid response teams in states affected by natural disasters because they lack formal credentials.
With 13 nurse anesthetist programs here, Pennsylvania ranks among the top draws nationally for CRNA students. But that could be at risk. Without an official CRNA designation, many graduating students 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.
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.
In Pennsylvania, education and clinical training for nurse anesthetists is extensive and requires national board certification. At the Excela Health School of Anesthesia, in partnership with Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, we ensure our graduates are eligible to sit for the national certification examination administered by the National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists .
We also provide mentoring and quality experiences that enhance the learning experience through clinical hours as well as simulation experiences that help students grow professionally. Our college currently has more than 20 clinical affiliation sites in the tristate area. We focus on providing students the knowledge and skills they need to develop as competent and safe quality anesthesia practitioners.
The nurse anesthetists we graduate are respected in the field as professionals who are well-prepared and ready to meet the challenges of modern health care.
Professional designation in Pennsylvania would help us achieve our shared mission of keeping patients safe, ensuring access to quality care. It is time to recognize CRNAs for the skills they have and the value they bring to our commonwealth.