Veterans' Access to Quality Healthcare will Improve If VHA Recognizes Nurse Anesthetists to Full Practice Authority, AANA Tells Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

  • Jun 3, 2015

For Immediate Release:  June 3, 2015    
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Washington, D.C.—U.S. Military veterans deserve access to the best healthcare possible without having to travel long distances or wait unreasonable periods of time to receive that care, concerns that would be alleviated if all advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse anesthetists, were recognized to their full practice authority by the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA), according to Sharon Pearce, CRNA, president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).
In a statement submitted to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for today’s hearing on S 297, “The Frontlines to Lifelines Act,” Pearce shed light on the safety and cost-effectiveness of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) working in VHA facilities across the country. Although more than 900 CRNAs currently provide anesthesia and pain management services to tens of thousands of veterans each year, Pearce pointed out that CRNAs are not included with the other APRN specialties for recognition to their full practice authority under S 297, proposed by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
Pearce told the committee that enabling CRNAs to practice to the full scope of their education, experience, and credentials will benefit the VHA and the patients it serves by improving Veterans’ access to safe, high-quality anesthesia care; promoting team-based care delivery; reducing Veterans’ wait times for receiving care; and bringing the VHA in line with the rest of the military health system.
Additionally, in a time when controlling costs is of paramount importance to the healthcare system, by taking full advantage of CRNAs’ abilities the VHA would save as much as $105 million a year in anesthesia costs alone, Pearce said.
Omitting CRNAs from S 297 puts these important benefits in jeopardy.
“Let’s not leave unfinished the critical work of ensuring Veterans access to quality care,” said Pearce. “Veterans, nurse organizations, and the AARP all support full practice authority for APRNs, including CRNAs, as the kind of common-sense solution our Veterans need now. Before acting on this legislation, we urge the committee to amend S 297 to add CRNAs to the list of APRNs and allow full practice authority to all VHA APRNs.”
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