The AANA Applauds Rep. Underwood's Support for Removing Barriers to care at the Veterans Administration

The AANA Applauds Rep. Underwood's Support for Removing Barriers to care at the Veterans Administration

During a hearing on VA Healthcare workforce issues on March 17 in the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (VA), Committee member Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) urged the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Congress to address workforce shortages in the VA healthcare system by allowing Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) to practice at the full scope of their licensure and education.

To meet the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the VA issued a directive allowing CRNAs and other healthcare professionals to practice without physician supervision. Rep. Underwood's testimony called for this temporary action to become permanent.

"A comprehensive assessment of the clinical effects of granting full practice authority to CRNAs found no patient risks when CRNAs practice without physician supervision. In other words, there is no scientific or clinical argument for restricting CRNAs from practicing to the full extent of their education and training," Underwood stated during an exchange with officials from the VA. "If VA is serious about following the science, it is imperative that the department move swiftly to grant full practice authority within the scope of their license to CRNAs, an evidence-based policy that will expand access to care for our veterans."

"The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) thanks Rep. Underwood for her support of the nurse anesthesiology profession and leadership on these issues," said Dina Velocci, DNP, CRNA, APRN, AANA president. "Reports from the VA Office of the Inspector General have shown dozens of facilities citing shortages of anesthesia staff, and on-the-ground evidence shows that overly onerous supervision requirements have caused delays and denials of care for veterans. It is time to put our veterans first and take steps to ensure they have access to timely healthcare."

More than 1,100 CRNAs currently work in the VA, providing the highest quality care to our nation's veterans and serving on the frontlines of the ongoing pandemic. Historically, CRNAs have provided much of the anesthesia to our active-duty military in combat arenas since World War I and predominate in veterans' hospitals and the U.S. Armed Services, where they enjoy full practice authority in every branch of the military.

The "VA Nurse and Physician Assistant RAISE Act," introduced last October by Rep. Underwood, and recently signed into law, increases the pay cap for CRNAs and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) working in the VA.