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CRNA Week in 2020: Celebrating Nurse Anesthesia Care

January 20, 2020

CRNA Week in 2020: Celebrating Nurse Anesthesia Care

By Debra Wood, contributor

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are celebrating “Your Comfort. Your Care. We are there,” the theme of the 2020 National CRNA Week, and using this time to help educate people about the profession and the role it plays in delivering safe, quality care. 

“CRNAs, without exception, are the future to an ever-evolving healthcare landscape, where patient advocacy, safety and well-being are paramount,” said Melissa Cooper, spokesperson for American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).

DISCOVER top CRNA jobs in 2020 with Merritt Hawkins.

About CRNAs

According to the AANA 2019 Member Profile Survey, CRNAs deliver more than 49 million anesthetics to patients annually in the United States. Nearly 54,000 CRNAs and students belong to AANA.

CRNAs practice in different anesthesia delivery models, like anesthesia care teams in large hospitals. An anesthesiologist can supervise from one to four CRNAs, said Jose Castillo III, PhD, MS, CRNA, APRN, president of the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

CRNA supervision

Thirty states have granted CRNAs independent practice without requiring physician supervision. Other states, such as South Carolina and Florida, will consider that move this year.

“New York State CRNAs deserve the recognition as advanced practice nurses, so they can provide cost efficient and safe access to care in the rural parts of the state and critical access hospitals,” said Stephanie Grolemund MSN, MSN, CRNA, president of the New York State Association of Nurse Anesthetists. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in 2001, gave state governors the right to opt-out of physician supervision for nurse anesthetists. As of January 2020, seventeen states have opted out of federal rules for physician supervision of CRNAs.

Healthy compensation

CRNAs, typically, earn more than other advanced practice nurses. The Merritt Hawkins 2019 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioners Recruiting Incentives pegged CRNA average starting salaries at $197,000, which is higher than the median salary rate of $168,000 listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2018, and the $188,000 average listed in the Medscape APRN Compensation Report 2019. However, doctorally-prepared CRNAs earned $195,000 annually, according to Medscape.

Liability concerns

“CRNAs are some of the highest skilled and highest paid nurses in the field,” said Georgia Reiner, a risk specialist at Nurses Service Organization (NSO) in Philadelphia. “Such skills can come with a caveat, though. With these advanced skills comes added responsibility in patient care.”  

Reiner pointed out that CRNAs practice with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. While CRNAs often work under a physician's supervision, they are responsible for making largely independent decisions on critical patient care outcomes, such as medication dosages, tracheal intubations, etc. 

“While many CRNAs enjoy the autonomy their job affords, it simultaneously makes them more vulnerable to a malpractice lawsuit, which can be costly,” Reiner said.

“CRNAs encounter liability risks on a daily basis,” Reiner continued, “so it is important for them to identify and manage these risks to protect their career and livelihood while also improving outcomes for their patients.”

CRNA shortages

A challenge for the CRNA profession is their high demand. At the same time the U.S. population is growing older and needing more care, so are its heath care professionals.

“We are going to be short of providers in the future,” Castillo said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth for advanced practice nurses—including CRNAs, midwives and nurse practitioners—to grow by 26 percent from 2018 to 2028.

“In New York State, the demand for anesthesia services is estimated to outpace the supply of providers by 7 percent by the year 2030,” Grolemund said. “Knowing this, it is important to allow both nurses and physicians to practice to their full extent of their education and training.” 

Attracting male nurses

While only 10 percent of registered nurses are men, 40 percent of CRNAs are men.

“It’s hard to say why anesthesia appeals to men,” said Greg Crawford, CRNA, president of the California Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

CRNA schools require critical care experience and many of those nurses are men. Additionally, the compensation might attract men.

“Also, it’s a challenging and ever-evolving practice environment, with schedule flexibility,” Crawford said. “Every man or woman would give a different rationale.”

CRNAs considered one of the “Best Jobs”

U.S. News & World Report ranked nurse anesthetist as one of the “Best Jobs of 2020.” It cited a median salary of $167,950, with employment expected to increase by 17 percent by 2028. 

In its 2020 Best Jobs ranking, U.S. News ranked nurse anesthetists:

#11 in Best Paying Jobs

#11 in Best STEM Jobs

#15 in Best Healthcare Jobs

#21 in 100 Best Jobs

Educational changes

AANA endorsed doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNaP) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees as necessary for entry into the nurse anesthesia profession by the year 2025. Educational programs have started transitioning to the doctoral curriculum.

“Since its inception as a profession, CRNAs have continuously advanced the science and education of anesthesia, making the requirements for entry meet the ever-growing needs of our patients, considering the expanding scientific data and research available at the time,” Grolemund said. “The DNP or DNaP is just the next step in that evolution.” 


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