The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) commends President Biden for signing the “Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act” (H.R. 1667), which promotes behavioral health and well-being among healthcare professionals.
The bill is named after an emergency room physician who died by suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. A supporter of the bill since its introduction in 2020, the AANA worked with the Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) to increase awareness and Congressional support for healthcare professionals who have long experienced high levels of stress and burnout, which have been amplified with the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since 1983, the AANA has been unique among healthcare associations in addressing, promoting, and supporting the physical and mental well-being of CRNAs and student nurse anesthetists,” said AANA President Dina F. Velocci, DNP, CRNA, APRN. “We are pleased the Congress and the president recognize the importance of prioritizing the mental health of our frontline medical professionals who are caring for some of our most vulnerable patients.”
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice registered nurses with leadership and expertise in airway and ventilation management and critical care—skills that have been essential in addressing the deadliest part of COVID-19.
Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act establishes grants and requires other activities to improve mental and behavioral health among healthcare providers. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to healthcare providers, including medical professional associations such as the AANA, that establish or expand evidence-informed programs dedicated to promoting mental and behavioral health among their employees or members who are working on the front lines of the pandemic. It also sets up awareness campaigns encouraging healthcare professionals to seek support and treatment for mental health concerns.
Nurses who tend to patients with the coronavirus report more severe degrees of psychological distress such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia than other healthcare workers. Nurses are facing extraordinary workloads, often without adequate access to personal protective equipment (PPE). And, in recent surveys, nurses reported extreme to moderate concern about the safety of their family and friends (87 percent), about adequate testing (84 percent), and about access to PPE (75 percent).