During this unprecedented crisis, healthcare workers continue to do one thing that is not unprecedented—they are running toward danger to take care of patients.
While the CARES Act signed into law in late March provided valuable support to small businesses and providers who faced furloughs and layoffs because of the crisis, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists calls on Congress to go further by incentivizing and properly compensating the front-line healthcare workers who continue to put their lives on the line. To that end, the AANA strongly supports fair and equitable hazard pay that is available to all healthcare providers retroactive to the beginning of the crisis.
Front-line healthcare workers are putting their own—and often their families'—health and safety in jeopardy. With shortages of personal protective equipment across the country, and a diminishing Strategic National Stockpile, healthcare workers are forced to reuse masks or even devise their own PPE in hopes of protecting themselves and others. In many cases, front-line providers are also facing financial burden and strain on their personal lives, opting to stay in hotels to avoid exposing their families—and even going weeks or months without seeing their loved ones.
Though they did not sign up for these conditions, they are not deterred. And for that, they deserve to be compensated in a manner that reflects the serious risk and strain they are under.
As advanced-practice nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetists have vast experience in critical-care settings and advanced education and training in anesthesiology. CRNAs provide care across all settings and in all patient populations and are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural and underserved areas and on the battlefield.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, CRNAs have continued to provide top-of-the-line anesthesia care, but they have also seen their roles change drastically. CRNA expertise in airway management, hemodynamic monitoring, management of patients on ventilators, placement of invasive lines, and overall management of critically ill patients uniquely positions them to provide life-saving care to those suffering from the coronavirus.
The treatment of COVID-19 relies on the entirety of the healthcare workforce: from those providing cleaning services, to those providing care inside and outside of ICUs, to those intubating patients, and to those comforting patients as they take their dying breath. But every member of the healthcare workforce has one thing in common: they are working day in and day out, making sacrifices beyond our comprehension, to be there for patients across the nation.
Unfortunately, we know that healthcare workers are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. As more and more providers become ill and are unable to work, Congress must ensure providers have incentives to remain on the front lines or volunteer to step up to the plate. Through equitable incentives and retention payments for front-line providers, we can hope to have an adequate workforce to care for the next influx of patients.
The AANA stands ready to work with Congress in developing policies that support and reward their efforts. We strongly urge lawmakers to show their support for our front-line healthcare workers by providing equitable hazard pay to our deserving providers.