DCMH Celebrating Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists Week

Heather Driver

Jos Foley

Christine Hamilton

Joe McBeain

Clint Pitchforth

Delta, CO (January 22, 2020) - For over 150 years, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) have been educated, trained and licensed to administer anesthesia to patients in nearly every clinical setting where there is a procedure requiring anesthesia to be done.

Today, in many rural hospitals CRNAS are used in surgical suites, obstetrical delivery rooms and physician and dentist offices. At Delta County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) there is a team of five CRNAS with experience providing anesthesia care to patients.

"DCMH prides itself on having an exception team of CRNAs that always provide high-quality care for our patients," said Jody Roeber, Chief Clinical Officer at DCMH. "They provide a great level of support to the rest of the medical staff and ensure that we withhold all standards and procedures to keep our patients safe while administering anesthesia."

CRNAs have a long history of safe patient outcomes and CRNA's have been recognized by some managed care plans for providing high-quality anesthesia care with reduced expense to patients and insurance companies helping to control healthcare costs.

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), CRNAS are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America.

"I came to Delta because it is the type of rural practice and independence that I enjoy," stated Christine Hamilton, CRNA at DCMH since 2006. "[I am also able to have] more autonomy of my profession. Both my husband and I grew up in Grand Junction, so being close to family is also nice."

CRNAS enable healthcare facilities in medically underserved areas to offer obstetrical, surgical, pain management, and trauma stabilization services, says the AANA. In Colorado, 99.9% of counties with surgical services use CRNAs to administer anesthesia in various health care settings, with 71% of Colorado rural hospitals using CRNAs as the sole anesthesia provider.

"This region allows me to practice very specialized care for folks," said Heather Driver, DCMH CRNA who recently received her doctorate in nurse anesthesia. "I fell in love with Colorado when I moved to the state 30 years ago and have always felt called to rural communities and their unique healthcare challenges."

Today, CRNAs receive their Masters or are Doctoral Prepared Advance Practice Nurses who enjoy a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. Currently, there are 49,000 nurse anesthetists in the United States, and 512 CRNAs in Colorado according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

DCMH's CRNA team has over 55 years of combined experience. With the development of the CRNA department by Chris Marshall and Jerry Young in 1982, DCMH has been providing anesthesia care for DCMH patients for over 35 years.

"Developing the CRNA department at DCMH is important to us because we knew what an asset they are to the hospital and to the community of Delta County," said Joseph McBeain, Chief CRNA at DCMH. "I also chose to come to DCMH because I like smaller hospitals where everyone knows each other no matter what department they come from."

The CRNA staff each joined the DCMH team for varying reasons. For Clint Pitchforth it was about having an overall better quality of life.

"I was really looking to expand my practice and improve my quality of life by being part of a high quality anesthesia and surgical department," said Clint Pitchforth, CRNA at DCMH.

For Jos Foley it was a chance to put roots down in a place with strong family ties. Foley said that his wife's family has been on the Western Slope for over 120 years and they wanted to reintegrate back into the town that they love - Cedaredge.

"It's like a family," said Driver. "I think everyone works really hard. Everyone jumps in to help each other. It is based on empathy and compassion (with one another) for the best patient outcomes.