SPOKANE, Wash.—Imagine you’re a woman who is about to give birth to her first child via a C-section. Depending on the hospital you go to, your comfort and safety during the procedure might be in the hands of a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or an anesthesiologist.

Should you prefer one situation over the other? The answer is no, according to Dan Simonson, a graduate of the health policy and administration program at Washington State University Spokane.

Simonson came to this conclusion in an article, “Anesthesia Staffing and Anesthetic Complications During Cesarean Delivery: A Retrospective Analysis,” which was recently published in the January/February 2007 issue of Nursing Research. The article reports on a research study conducted by Simonson, himself a CRNA, as part of his master’s thesis.

The study examined Washington State hospital discharge data obtained from 1993 to 2004 for all cesarean sections, which were merged with a survey of hospital obstetrical anesthesia staffing. Comparing the data for hospitals with CRNA-only staffing to those with anesthesiologist-only staffing, Simonson found that there were no significant differences in the incidence of obstetrical anesthesia complications between the two types of staffing models.

The findings of the study suggest that hospitals and anesthesiology groups can base staffing decisions related to obstetrical anesthesia on such variables as provider availability and costs, without compromising patient safety.

“In times of decreasing reimbursement for medical care, it becomes important to determine the best use of our resources,” said Simonson. “Hospitals, CRNAs, and anesthesiologists should all be pleased to have reassurance that CRNAs working without anesthesiologist supervision can safely take care of the anesthetic requirements of obstetrical patients.”

Co-authors on the article are Melissa Ahern, associate professor of health policy and administration, WSU Spokane, and Michael Hendryx, associate professor, West Virginia University.