Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) play a critical role in providing excellence in patient care. There’s an ever-growing need for the skills and experience that accompany this position, but extreme staffing shortages persist across the country. Unfortunately, the supply-and-demand gap is only widening.

By 2025, it’s estimated there will be significant nurse shortages for direct patient care, with rural communities feeling the biggest impact. CRNAs currently administer approximately 80% of anesthesia to this population.

Let’s explore the role of in alleviating some of the key challenges facing CRNAs today.

The top challenges facing today’s CRNAs

In 2023, that means looking at a confluence of problems — many of which were driven or even exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a look at the top challenges CRNAs face today and the reasons for their persistence:

  • Understaffing and high demand. As mentioned, CRNAs are highly sought after and difficult to staff. An aging population has increased demand for anesthesia services and professionals capable of administering them. This puts pressure on CRNAs to handle more cases and work longer hours, leading to burnout and fatigue.
  • Training barriers and education. The education and training required to become a CRNA are rigorous and demanding. In fact, starting in 2025, CRNAs will be required to have a doctorate degree. Access to quality educational programs is often limited, especially in rural areas, making it challenging for aspiring CRNAs to pursue this career path.
  • Staffing models and team dynamics. In some healthcare settings, conflicts may arise between CRNAs and anesthesiologists regarding roles, responsibilities, and leadership within the anesthesia care team. Harmonizing staffing models and fostering collaborative working relationships remain a challenge.
  • Workforce shortages in rural areas. Rural communities experience shortages of healthcare providers at a higher rate than urban centers. As these areas heavily rely on CRNAs for anesthesia services, lack of access can create disparities. Moreover, rural health centers may not be equipped for anesthesia, further exacerbating the issue.
  • Changing healthcare policies. The ever-evolving landscape of healthcare policies and regulations can impact CRNAs’ practice and insurance requirements. Staying informed and adapting to these changes can be challenging, especially for those working in resource-constrained environments.

The reality is these struggles boil down to imbalance. Fewer available CRNAs are asked to do more — often with less — in a profession that demands precision, attentiveness, and the utmost care. With lack of access to training and resources to support them, many CRNAs are put in the precarious position of handling a delicate procedure with minimal support.

How Accuro empowers CRNAs

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the struggles facing today’s CRNAs, there are ways to alleviate stress — namely, in practice. RIVANNA’s Accuro Neuraxial Guidance technology offers critical support for nurse anesthetists who find themselves stuck between a massive caseload and a stressful work environment.

A few ways Accuro empowers CRNAs to deliver optimal patient care include:

  • Enhanced procedural accuracy. Accuro provides real-time ultrasound imaging, allowing CRNAs to visualize anatomical structures more clearly during procedures — a significant improvement over the blind palpation method. The increased visibility from BoneEnhance® Multi-Frequency Image Recons automates the identification of the spinal midline and the epidural space and depth, reducing the risk of accidental injury or complications.
  • Reduced procedure time. Accuro’s advanced imaging capabilities lead to more efficient procedures. Being able to streamline the process of locating anatomical landmarks saves time during preoperative setup and administration of anesthesia. This benefit not only improves workflow but can also contribute to better patient outcomes.
  • Increased confidence. CRNAs often face unusual cases, including patients with difficult or challenging anatomical variations. Accuro empowers CRNAs by enabling them to visualize relevant landmarks in real time, providing an added level of confidence and certainty to a critical task.
  • Less dependency on supervising anesthesiologists. While CRNAs are highly skilled professionals, they may still operate under the supervision of anesthesiologists in some healthcare settings. Accuro can help them become more autonomous by improving their ability to perform regional anesthesia procedures independently, which is particularly helpful in rural areas, where staff anesthesiologists aren’t often available.

RIVANNA also offers a course selection centered on training nurse anesthetists to use Accuro effectively, helping ensure optimal success in its administration. Plus, our Teach-Accuro® program is an easy and affordable way for academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to integrate the Accuro image-guided neuraxial technique into their existing curriculum.

To learn more about how Accuro neuraxial guidance makes epidurals faster, easier, and safer — especially in patients with complex anatomies — contact RIVANNA at rivannamedical.com today.