Nursing group quells concerns as Billings Clinic anesthesia contract expires

Billings (Mont.) Clinic's has moved away from using contracted anesthesia providers to create its own anesthesia department, causing some concern around how the health system will attract physician anesthesiologists.

"That misplaced apprehension overlooks certified registered nurse anesthetists or nurse anesthesiologists, who are ready to provide effective and safe anesthesia care in Billings as they already do throughout the state, including almost all the Billings Clinic affiliate hospitals," Marjorie Everson, PhD, CRNA, president of the Montana Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, said in a statement shared with Becker's.

CRNAs are licensed autonomous clinicians who plan and deliver anesthesia, pain management and related care to patients across the healthcare spectrum. These advanced practice registered nurses provide surgical, obstetrical and other pain management services within all of Montana's 100 counties, according to the association. 

"In many cases, especially in our rural areas, there are no physician anesthesiologists and having locally available CRNAs save patients long drives for care. This is especially important to our obstetric patients who, because of CRNAs, can deliver their babies close to home," Dr. Everson said. "CRNAs collaborate with the patient and a variety of healthcare professionals to provide patient-centered high-quality, holistic, evidence-based care where and when it is needed most."

Billings Clinic's contract with Billings Anesthesiology — the largest anesthesia group in Montana — expired Feb. 9. The system is creating an anesthesia department similar to all other physician departments across the organization. 

"We have partnered with the excellent physicians from Billings Anesthesiology for years," a spokesperson for the system told Becker's. "We are encouraging them to apply to continue their relationship with Billings Clinic as members of our new department of anesthesia services."

The Montana Association of Nurse Anesthesiology said it continues to work with Billings Clinic leaders to demonstrate the value CRNAs can bring to the health system's anesthesia programs. 

With both CRNAs and physician anesthesiologists practicing to their full scope of practice, education and licensure, duplication of services, improved effectiveness and increased access can be achieved at Billings Clinic, Dr. Everson said. 

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