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CRNAs Affected by Healthcare Costs

Why is the job market for CRNAs so strong? Every year the cost of healthcare continues to go up rapidly. In this time of economic uncertainty it is imperative to derive ways to reduce growing medical costs in order to create a productive healthcare system.  It is obvious that the current healthcare systems is in many way, inefficient. Contributing to these rising costs are the large number of uninsured and underinsured patients in the United States.  Many receive healthcare services in emergency rooms and hospitals, at a much greater cost than if they had regular access to preventative and primary care in other settings.  The cost of providing healthcare to the uninsured population is ultimately borne by all Americans through higher health insurance premiums and taxes.  In the U.S., 49.9 million people lacked health insurance in 2010, up from 49 million in 2009, according to the Census Bureau. The average health insurance premium for family coverage has more than doubled over the past decade to $13,770 a year. How does all of this relate to the CRNAs career?  Many hospitals and coverage plans are recognizing CRNAs and other APNs for providing high quality care with reduced expense to patients and insurance companies.  The cost efficiency of APNs helps to keep escalating medical costs down.  Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners Nurses (ARPNs) are registered nurses who have advanced education, certification and clinical training. Categories of the  ARNP licensure are: Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Midwife, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. 

According to the Lewin Group study published in the May/June 2010 Journal of Nursing Economics, a CRNA acting as the sole anesthesia provider is the most cost effective model of anesthesia delivery. The study considered the different anesthesia delivery models used in the U.S. today, and the results show that CRNAs acting as the sole anesthesia provider cost 25 percent less than the second lowest cost model.  The least cost efficient delivery model was where one anesthesiologist supervises one CRNA. A review of published studies shows that there are no measurable differences in quality of care between CRNAs and anesthesiologists or by delivery model.  This study confirms that CRNAs deliver anesthesia safely and cost-effectively.

In many states there are significant barriers which prevent full utilization of CRNAs.  This means that they cannot practice to the full extent of their education, training and experience.  As a result Americans cannot receive the full benefit, in terms of access to health care and lower cost, of services provided by CRNAs.  Because of the proven cost effectiveness of APNs many states are resolving to make changes and grant more authority to these nurses.  More efficient use of CRNAs in the United States could save over 50 million dollars in healthcare costs annually based on estimates of educational costs for anesthesia providers and statistics on average salaries.  Ten CRNAs can be educated for the same cost of educating one anesthesiologist. 

Nurse anesthetists are the sole anesthesia providers in approximately two thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States.  This enables these healthcare facilities to offer obstetrical, surgical, and trauma stabilization services.  CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of the rural hospitals in some states, and they administer approximately 27 million anesthetics in the U.S. each year.

As many states continue to give CRNAs more autonomy and studies prove the safety and cost effectiveness of doing so, the career outlook for these specialized nurses looks very bright. Attending a certified nurse anesthetist school is a smart decision.

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