Nurse anesthetists could ease staffing shortages, but most Montana physicians say no thanks

EMILY SCHABACKER

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories examining the anesthesiologist shortage in Billings. On Sunday, the Gazette investigated how the shortage is impacting hospitals and patients.

Nurse anesthetists are arguably the best kept secret in health care. But, they’re a secret for all the wrong reasons, according to Alison Carter, secretary/treasurer of the Montana Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.

Even as staffing shortages wreak havoc across Montana’s health systems, and hospitals expend huge amounts of money on traveling workers, physician anesthesiologists in Montana remain opposed to integrating nurse anesthetists into regional centers.

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Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are qualified to administer every type of anesthesia, and they provide 100% of the anesthesia services in rural Montana, Carter said. And they do so without the supervision of a physician anesthesiologist.

Alison Carter is a Certified Register Nurse Anesthetist and acts as the secretary/treasurer of the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.

Courtesy photo

As the physician shortage has worsened over the years, exacerbated by burnout from the COVID

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