2023 American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Congress

October 9, 2023 - by Adam Spiegel, CEO, and Randy Moore, Chief Anesthetist Officer

NorthStar Execs Present at AANA: CRNAs Vital to the Future of Anesthesiology

Adam Spiegel, CEO, and Randy Moore, Chief Anesthetist Officer of NorthStar Anesthesia

At last month’s American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Congress, we had the opportunity to represent NorthStar and present on the current landscape of anesthesia and the trends we will see in coming years, with an emphasis on what’s impacting Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and students enrolled in a nurse anesthesia program (SRNAs).

Current Business Landscape

We wanted to start by recognizing some of the challenges that anesthesia businesses are facing right now. Anesthesia companies are spending 85-90% of their budgets on provider costs, Medicare reimbursement rates for anesthesia have decreased by 5% in the past two years, and hospitals have been struggling financially. Inflation has been rampant, and costs have gone up, but anesthesia providers are earning on average 20-30 percent more than two years ago as there is a demand-supply imbalance and we continue to recover from COVID-19.

Impact on CRNAs

In this environment, it is a really hard time to run an anesthesia practice. But it is still a fantastic time to be a CRNA. Those two things can be happening simultaneously. CRNAs are in a position where the supply and demand are in their favor, and we expect there to be significant growth in this industry in the coming years.

Workforce Predictions for the Future of Anesthesia

In the coming years, we anticipate seeing an:

  1. Increased number of CRNA programs and residencies
  2. Higher volume of SRNAs and residents per program
  3. While the supply/demand imbalance of CRNAs will persist for the foreseeable future, we will start to sign early signs of stabilization in 2026-2027.

Growth in the Anesthesia Business

The pipeline is  starting to hum for CRNAs, which is critical to address the increasing demand for anesthesiology clinicians that is spurred by growth in the ORs across the United States In 2022, 2,700 CRNAs entered the workforce, which is a very flat number from preceding years. However, that same year, 3,300 nurse anesthesia residents matriculated into programs. If this trend continues, we will see somewhere around 3,200 CRNAs enter the workforce in 2025 with significant year over year growth in year graduates predicted. This growth is facilitated by the 130+ nurse anesthesia programs that are actively growing their size or planning to grow their size in the near future as well as the 15+ new nurse anesthesia programs currently in development.

Now is a great time to pursue a career as a CRNA because there will plenty of jobs available. According to the Bureau for Labor and Statistics (BLS), overall employment of nurse anesthetists is projected to grow 38% from 2022 to 2032, which is a much higher average than other occupations. Consequently, CRNAs are the highest-paid nursing job with an average salary of $195,610 and data indicates that compensation for CRNAs continues to increase at rates greater for those than of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, reflecting how organizations are addressing labor shortages and managing increasing surgical volume. There will always be a demand for CRNAs, especially now as the talent pipeline is strengthening and hospital models are changing.

Of note, the team-based model is growing, which is driving even more demand for CRNAs as more health care decision makers understand the value proposition that CRNAs bring to the table. With both an increase in surgical volumes and overall demand for CRNA and anesthesiologist services predicted in the long-term, it’s imperative that current and future employers of anesthesia clinicians recognize the importance of creating an attractive and rewarding practice environment. At NorthStar, this is our number one priority. Now, more than ever, we are focused on making NorthStar the destination employer for anesthesia clinicians and leaders. We do this by being obsessed with identifying and developing clinical leaders, ensuring the work environment for our teams is attractive, and having a laser focus on culture at each one of our sites.

Closing Thoughts

The foundation of our business is to create amazing culture and practice opportunities for anesthesia clinicians so that they can take care of patients and have a rewarding career. That’s why we exist. Therefore, we will continue to prioritize culture, leadership development, and good management practices. We are confident that the anesthesia specialty will continue to be a rewarding career choice. Good things are coming, and NorthStar is excited to navigate and lead these changes.