Pay for temporary certified registered nurse anesthetists has risen 70% in the past four years but now appears to be leveling off, according to StaffCare, a locum tenens firm based in Irving, Texas.
Due to a severe shortage, many CRNAs can only be hired on a temporary basis, and temporary CRNAs' pay has risen from $55 per hour in 1998 to $95 per hour in 2002, StaffCare reports.
But it has become relatively easy for hospitals and other facilities to find CRNAs, according to a StaffCare survey released Wednesday.
In the survey, executives at hospitals and other facilities that hire CRNAs report 59% of their 2002 openings for temporary CRNAs were filled, which is a relatively high fill rate, according to David Faries, a spokesman for StaffCare.
But the survey also finds that 91% of the executives complained about the high costs of hiring temporary CRNAs.
"I think they're feeling they have been taken hostage by these high rates," Faries says. "They pay them because they have to have these people."
Perhaps because facilities pay more for temporary CRNAs than permanent ones, many CRNAs stay in temporary positions for years, traveling all over the country to find the best pay.
The StaffCare survey finds 68% of temporary CRNAs plan to do temporary work for more than three years. It also finds 41% are willing to relocate anywhere in the nation, while 28% want to stay within their region.
Experts say CRNAs are in severe shortage because supply is down while demand is rising.
An HHS study found the number of CRNAs dropped 2% from 30,386 in 1996 to 29,844 in 2000.
Meanwhile, surgical volume has been rising. Anesthesiologists are also in short supply, and in some states, CRNAs are beginning to be able to work without supervision.
In 2001, CMS allowed states to opt out of the supervision requirement under Medicare. Since then, seven states have set aside the Medicare supervision requirement: Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Kansas, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.