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The importance of removing barriers to care for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists

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(BPT) - You may not know it, but chances are you have received care from an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at some point in your life. Whether you've been attended to by a nurse practitioner, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), nurse-midwife or clinical nurse specialist, they've provided you with compassionate care.

As of 2020, more than 233,000 advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) treated Medicare patients and approximately 40% of Medicare beneficiaries received care from an APRN. APRNs have been trained at the master's or doctoral level to:

  • Treat and diagnose illnesses
  • Advise the public on health issues
  • Manage chronic disease
  • Deliver anesthesia and provide other pain management care
  • Provide care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Prescribe medication and non-pharmacologic treatments

They treat patients of all ages and backgrounds in all settings. And, if given a chance, they can play a pivotal role in the future of healthcare. Indeed, more than 40% of Medicare beneficiaries could receive safe and effective APRN care, if harmful regulatory barriers were removed.

The Improving Care and Access to Nurses (ICAN) Act — recently introduced to the House by Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH) — is a critical piece of legislation that removes barriers to care and increases access to services provided by APRNs under Medicare and Medicaid.

Should this act pass, it will help ensure access to healthcare for millions of Americans by removing costly and unnecessary barriers to high-quality healthcare services. This bill is especially important regarding the role of CRNAs in healthcare nationwide, as these are often the only anesthesia providers available in rural and underserved communities.

The critical role of CRNAs

CRNAs, as advanced practice registered nurses, are members of one of the most trusted professions, according to Gallup. Their expertise in anesthesia delivery, airway management and care of critically ill patients have made them highly sought-after healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

"CRNAs play an important role in maintaining critical access in communities across the country," said Angela Mund, DNP, CRNA, president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA). "They're often the only anesthesia providers in most rural hospitals and the predominant providers in underserved communities."

Despite their importance, CRNAs are hampered by current restrictions that require physician supervision of CRNAs. This federal requirement creates a barrier to expanding care and exacerbates the current provider shortage, especially in underserved communities.

How ICAN can remove barriers and improve access to care

Communities across the country are facing a shortage of healthcare providers. To help ensure that everyone can access high-quality care, legislators need to remove barriers that do nothing to improve patient safety and hinder APRNs such as CRNAs from practicing to the top of their skills and education. The ICAN bill will remove these barriers in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Eliminating redundant supervision requirements for CRNAs will facilitate lower healthcare costs and ensure that CRNAs are reimbursed for services. In short, this legislation will increase access to and improve healthcare quality for all Americans.

"For more than two years, we have seen practice barriers removed at the federal level, allowing nurses to step up on the front lines of multiple global health challenges," said Mund. "We have seen how much nurses can do when we allow them to reach the full potential of their education and scope of practice."

To learn more about the ICAN Act and how you can urge your representative to support this life-saving legislation, visit AnesthesiaFacts.com.