Different Models, Same Quality Outcomes

At its core, anesthesia care is freedom from pain. Each year, millions of Americans undergo some form of medical treatment requiring anesthesia. In the hands of qualified professionals such as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), anesthesia is a safe and effective means of alleviating pain during nearly every type of medical procedure.

When anesthesia is administered by a nurse anesthetist, it is recognized as the practice of nursing; when administered by an anesthesiologist, it is recognized as the practice of medicine. While all anesthesia professionals deliver the same anesthetics, anesthesia care delivered by a CRNA is especially well-suited to meet the needs of today’s changing and challenging healthcare environment. Key benefits of CRNA-delivered anesthesia care include:

  • Most cost-effective anesthesia care model
  • Ensures access to anesthesia in medically underserved communities where surgical, obstetric, and trauma services otherwise would not be available
  • Consistently provides a safe anesthesia experience and quality outcome for each patient
  • Extensive preparation for handling emergency situations
  • Healthcare team members count on CRNAs to provide services beyond anesthesia care.

Methods and Models

The Perfect Model, Safe and Cost-Effective

A landmark study published in 2010 found that a CRNA working as the sole anesthesia provider is the most cost-effective anesthesia delivery model. Get research

There are three basic types of anesthesia:

  • General anesthesia produces a loss of sensation throughout the entire body.
  • Regional anesthesia produces a loss of sensation to a specific region of the body.
  • Local anesthesia produces a loss of sensation to a small, specific area of the body.

While all anesthesia professionals deliver the same anesthetics, there are multiple anesthesia delivery models:

  • Care-team model - physician anesthesiologists supervise resident physicians in training and direct qualified non-physician anesthesia providers, such as CRNAs, who ultimately administer the anesthetics.
  • All-MD model - anesthesia care provided by medical doctors only, specifically physician anesthesiologists. Because of the higher staff costs, this model is most prevalent in one- or two-room surgery centers and less common in large ambulatory surgery centers.
  • All-CRNA model - anesthesia care delivered by CRNAs independently, without the involvement of an anesthesiologist. In states where supervision is required, CRNAs practicing in this model can be supervised by any licensed physician.
  • MD+CRNA model - this model functions much like the care team model but with fewer supervision requirements, allowing CRNAs to function according to their full scope of practice.

In the U.S., CRNAs are the hands-on providers of approximately 43 million anesthetics to patients annually.

Infographic: Anesthesia and the Changing Healthcare Landscape