Specialist shortage is artificially created
This is a letter in response to the Daily Herald's article ran on Sept. 2 regarding the scheduling of elective procedures at Sherman Hospital.
This hospital's situation highlights a statewide challenge: we know there are shortages across the state that aren't necessary and are hurting care access and driving up cost. Here's why.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and physician anesthesiologists are both medical providers who are both board certified to provide the exact same anesthesia care services. In Illinois, there are 2,133 physician anesthesiologists and 1,791 CRNAs. The Illinois Nurse Practice Act imposes statutory limitations on CRNAs which prevent them from practicing to the full extent of their scope of practice, resulting in barriers to access to care and increased costs.
Anesthesia providers can practice in a variety of practice settings. Sherman Hospital utilized a model called the anesthesia care team in which a physician anesthesiologist medically directs up to four CRNAs. Because a physician anesthesiologist is "medically directing" care and not providing direct care, this consumes additional staffing. The Illinois Nurse Practice Act states that CRNAs need to practice with the physical presence of a physician, dentist or podiatrist. Each anesthesia provider, CRNAs and physician anesthesiologists alike, could directly deliver care, thus freeing up staffing and reducing cost.
When hospitals practice in an anesthesia care team model, the anesthesia group requires a subsidy, oftentimes in the millions of dollars.
In summary, anesthesia provider shortages are artificially created because of the anesthesia delivery model chosen by hospitals and health care institutions. The high health care demands of 2020 and 2021 have demonstrated that communities need to be able to optimize and flex their health care resources while maintaining the highest safety standards. Illinois residents deserve it.
Jennifer Banek, President
Illinois Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Lake County Coroner