The Case for an All CRNA Practice

Anesthesiologists and CRNAs work together every day to provide anesthesia care to surgical patients as well as pain management services. Each kind of anesthesia provider type plays an important role in the day-to-day management of cases and patient care delivery. Most facilities utilize a strategic mix of anesthesiologists and CRNAs to best cover their unique OR schedule, but there are certain scenarios that necessitate an all CRNA practice. 

The Role and History of CRNAs

Before we dive into the reasons why an all CRNA practice may be ideal in certain situations, it is essential to first understand how and why CRNAs are prepared to practice independently of anesthesiologist direction or supervision. Nurse anesthetists began delivering anesthesia care during the American Civil War. The anesthesia services provided by CRNAs are the same as the anesthesia services provided by anesthesiologists. In fact, most of the hands-on anesthesia patient care in the United States is delivered by CRNAs. It takes approximately eight years of coursework and clinical hours for a student registered nurse anesthetist (SRNA) to attain a masters or doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia. During that time, a SRNA will amass nearly 9,400 hours of clinical experience. All CRNAs are board certified and required to complete a certain amount of continuing education to maintain their license.

Benefits of an All CRNA Practice

There are several benefits of an all CRNA practice, including:

Improved Access to Care in Rural Areas 

In rural areas where access to care is problematic for underserved patient populations, CRNA-only practices are common. In fact, a recent study published in the September/October 2015 issue of Nursing Economic$ found that CRNAs are providing the majority of anesthesia care in U.S. counties with lower-income populations and populations that are more likely to be uninsured or unemployed. Since there is no evidence that CRNA’s working alone undermine the quality of care, this is excellent news for underserved patient populations. 

Cost Effectiveness

In many situations, it can be more cost effective to run an all-CRNA practice as opposed to including anesthesiologists in the staffing mix. According to the 2016 Medical Group Management Association provider compensation report, the national median anesthesiologist compensation package was just over $450,000 annually versus $172,000 for CRNAs. There was also a study published in the May/June 2010 issue of Nursing Economic$ that showed the most cost-effective anesthesia delivery model as a CRNA working as the sole anesthesia provider. Since CRNAs are legally allowed to practice independently, anesthesiologists are not always required. 

Ability to Meet Unique Needs

CRNAs are able to provide most types of anesthesia in a variety of practice settings. CRNAs can even provide pain management services. Even in densely populated cities, it often makes sense for an independent CRNA to meet the anesthesia-related needs of office-based practices such as plastic surgery practices. 

Is a CRNA-Only Model Right for Your Facility? 

If your hospital struggles to recruit and budget for the expense of an anesthesiologist, you should consider a CRNA-only staffing model. Likewise, if you are a surgeon doing office-based procedures, a CRNA may be an ideal fit for your practice. 

Are you interested in transitioning your facility to a CRNA-only anesthesia staffing model? For more information on the most strategic mix of anesthesiologists and CRNAs for your department, contact us today at 800.494.3948. Our practice management experts are eager to help you determine if a CRNA-only staffing model would help you achieve your goals.