In health care, medical malpractice litigation is something that all professionals must worry about, from doctors to nurses. Specialized nurses like CRNAs are just as liable as anesthesiologists, and our explanation will tell you why.
The Responsibilities of a CRNA
The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice nurse—essentially, a registered nurse who has received additional education and training to work in a specific field like anesthesiology. CRNAs work closely with the anesthesiologist, but they have many responsibilities as critical care and airway management experts.
CRNAs are responsible for developing an anesthetic plan for patients with the anesthesiologist, monitoring patients before, during, and after the procedure, and prepping operating rooms and equipment for the anesthesiologist. Many of the minute, daily tasks of anesthesia care fall to the CRNA, but their duties are as crucial as a physician’s.
What Can Go Wrong With Anesthesia Medical Procedures
Although administering anesthesia to a patient is safe and uncomplicated most of the time, mistakes and accidents happen. If too much is issued, the patient can lose brain blood flow and suffer a stroke or even death.
Serious consequences can also occur if the patient’s stomach is not empty before the procedure and they vomit, blocking the airway and filling the lungs. Complications can also occur after the operation when the CRNA is responsible for monitoring the patient as they awake from the anesthesia.
The Liability of a CRNA
In the hierarchy of most medical facilities, most of the liability will fall on the anesthesiologist, who is mainly responsible for developing an anesthesia plan for patients. If complications arise from a faulty strategy, that will not make the CRNA responsible, as they simply followed orders.
But if the anesthesia was not administered properly, the patient was not adequately monitored before and after the procedure, or the CRNA did not ensure their stomach was empty, liability could fall to the CRNA. Just because they’re not lead doctors does not mean CRNAs are not liable for mistakes.
How Often CRNAs Get Sued
In most cases, litigants do not specifically name nurses and CRNAs in malpractice cases. But they’re not free of litigation either. In studies of thousands of malpractice cases, specialized nurses like CRNAs were named in about one out of every seven cases.
That’s why it’s crucial to have CRNA malpractice insurance—because as well-trained and good at their jobs as they are, everyone makes mistakes. If CRNAs aren’t adequately protected, it could mean severe financial penalties.
Now you see why CRNAs are just as liable as anesthesiologists. The administration of anesthesia is generally a harmless and straightforward procedure. Still, if someone makes a simple mistake, it could lead to catastrophic results, and CRNAs are in no way immune from litigation.