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PARK RIDGE (AANA)— Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) stand at the ready as the threat of COVID-19 threatens the nation’s rural communities. CRNAs are the primary provider of anesthesia care in rural America.
“As a CRNA, we’re uniquely qualified to help with airway management, which can be difficult in COVID patients,” said Brian Kvamme, CRNA, a member of the South Dakota Association of Nurse Anesthetists’ Board of Directors. “At my hospital we put in central lines, arterial lines, and we’re a major resource for our critical patients that we’ll be taking care of. We’ll also be helping with sedation and ventilator management. We’re lucky because the state of South Dakota has CRNAs positioned to work as full-service providers and care for our community members in their most critical time of need.”
Earlier this year, South Dakota’s governor signed a law that granted CRNAs prescriptive authority and allows them to collaborate with other providers in chronic pain practice. By removing barriers to practice, this law increased access to care for South Dakota residents.
In South Dakota and across the country, CRNAs have stepped into leadership roles, preparing their facilities to confront COVID-19 head on using their skills and expertise, particularly in ventilator management, intubation, airway management, and critical care to treat patients and save lives, according to Kate Jansky, MHS, CRNA, APRN, USA LTC (ret), president of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).
“Our group of CRNAs has stepped up and will be taking over 100 percent of the intubations and central lines in the facility to limit others’ exposure. We will be taking over the code team and the rapid response team as well as responding to needs from the ICU and ER. We will be utilizing our skills in ventilator management and hemodynamic management, as well as critical care, to open an additional ICU space, which we will run as needed,” said Mike MacKinnon, DNP, FNP-C, CRNA, who works in rural Arizona and is one of five owners of a 16 CRNA-only group.
The AANA has partnered with the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) to promote and release the AANA infographic, CRNAs in the Rural Setting: APRN Leaders with the Expertise and Skills to Respond to COVID-19. The document describes how CRNAs can help rural facilities prepare for and meet the challenges of COVID-19, including directing, managing, and providing anesthesia-related services for urgent surgeries and procedures and providing life-saving critical care management for patients impacted by COVID-19. Rural facilities are encouraged to discuss with them how CRNAs can lead and contribute value-added services and capabilities to the COVID-19 response. This infographic can also support CRNAs in discussions with rural facility leaders to support the CRNA role during the COVID-19 crisis.
As advanced practice providers with critical care nursing experience, CRNAs possess a global perspective, making them uniquely qualified to contribute to advanced airway management, advanced hemodynamic monitoring, and advanced ventilator management, including turning operating room ventilators into ICU ventilators and leading rapid response teams to provide life-saving interventions. Both hospitals and patients benefit from the work of these competent and versatile providers.