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PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AANA)—As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain healthcare facilities across the United States, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) has encouraged state governors to optimize their healthcare workforce by enabling non-physician healthcare providers to practice at the top of their license.
In a March 25 letter to the National Governors Association, AANA President Kate Jansky, MHS, CRNA, APRN, USA LTC (ret), wrote that, at this time of national crisis, it is essential to make available all resources to address the healthcare needs of citizens. These resources include removing barriers to practice for advanced practice registered nurses, such as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs).
“There will be tremendous demands on our healthcare system in the near future,” wrote Jansky. “Freeing CRNAs from unnecessary statutory and regulatory burdens will allow CRNAs to contribute more efficiently to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The NGA offered states “Strategies for Health Care Workforce and Facility Capacity” on March 24. The guidance specifically emphasized that governors interested in increasing the capacity of their healthcare workforce should consider allowing providers to practice at the top of their license.
This guidance is an important step in addressing healthcare workforce issues that are likely to result from the COVID-19 crisis, according to Jansky. The guidance is also consistent with a March 24 letter sent by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to all U.S. governors to encourage the removal or relaxation of scope of practice barriers in an effort to expand the capacity of states’ current healthcare workforce to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary Azar’s recommendations include allowing health professionals to practice across state lines and suspending restrictive supervisory and collaborative scope of practice requirements.
“Removing burdensome restrictions on CRNAs and other healthcare professionals is the right policy at this critical juncture and is desperately needed to meet the growing demands on our healthcare delivery system,” said Jansky.
“Facilities need maximum flexibility in utilizing CRNAs and other advanced practice registered nurses to manage and staff intensive care units, operating rooms, critical care and other units as patient care requires. CRNAs can play an important role in providing life-saving critical care management for patients impacted by the COVID-19 virus in their APRN role,” said Jansky.
“Many of the limits on CRNA practice in the states are not based on any data or research, and CRNAs can safely practice beyond these limits and already do so in a number of states,” she said.
CRNAs are prepared to practice autonomously and are qualified to make independent judgments based on their education, licensure, and certification. Jansky said the AANA is actively encouraging states to expand emergency healthcare workforce declarations to authorize use of out-of-state nursing licensees and to facilitate use of in-state inactive licensees and retired healthcare providers.
“Many states have already suspended some restrictive scope of practice requirements for healthcare providers. However, there is still much work that needs to be done,” said Jansky. “At this time of national crisis, we need all available resources to address the healthcare needs of our citizens.”