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Jennifer Banek: A Nurse Anesthetist’s Perspective on Healthcare

Jennifer Banek gives us a nurse anesthetist’s perspective on healthcare in this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast with Rob Oliver. Jennifer is a CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) from Illinois. She is a member of Generation X.

Here are 3 things that stood out as Jennifer Banek shared a nurse anesthetist’s perspective on healthcare:

· A Nurse Anesthetist and an anesthesiologist do basically the same work. One comes at it with a nursing perspective the other from the medical doctor viewpoint.
· Quality healthcare is safe, efficient and patient centered. It also carries a great return on investment.
· Jennifer is a proponent of advocacy to increase awareness about and utilization of nurse anesthetists in the medical arena.

You can find out more about Jennifer through the link below:


Here is the text of my conversation with Jennifer Banek as she gave us a nurse anesthetist’s perspective on healthcare:

Introduction to Jennifer Banek

Rob Oliver: Thank you and welcome to another episode of Perspectives on Healthcare. My guest today is Jennifer Banek. She is a certified registered nurse anesthetist. And I have been practicing all day to make sure that I can say anesthetist properly because it’s not easy. But she is from the state of Illinois. She is a member of Generation X. Jennifer, welcome to the show.

Jennifer Banek: Thank you so much for having me today, Rob. I’m excited to be here. I love what I do. So I’m excited to tell your listeners all about it.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role in healthcare

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. So let’s start with that then. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in healthcare, please.

Jennifer Banek: Yes. So you did a very good job of pronouncing anesthetists. That is correct. I am a certified registered nurse anesthetist. So we are responsible for the preoperative care of a patient. So what that means is reviewing their medical record, assessing what type of anesthetic is appropriate for that patient and for that procedure, and getting informed consent from the patient, communicating with the surgeon or the procedure list about what type of anesthetic we’ve chosen. And then we actually deliver the anesthetic intraoperatively and then post operatively, we would make sure that the patient is comfortable, that they’re hemodynamically stable, and that their pain is managed. So we are responsible for all three phases of anesthesia care.

Rob Oliver: Okay, so talk to me about the difference between an anesthesiologist and a nurse anesthetist, please.

Jennifer Banek: That’s a great question. So we are actually board certified to do the exact same thing. The difference is the foundations of our education. Certified registered nurse anesthetists or CRNAs have their educational foundations in nursing. So we are all registered nurses. All of us have had at least one year of intensive care unit experience. Actually, on average, my colleagues have 2.9 years of experience in the intensive care unit. So that’s a lot of time that we start learning our trade or our profession, so to speak. Physician anesthesiologist. Their path to doing the exact same thing is a little different. And so they have an undergraduate degree. That undergraduate degree could be in any specialty, actually. But then they take some prerequisite courses and they go on to medical school. But at the end of the day, certified registered nurse anesthetists, as I said, are credentialed to do the exact same thing. Every single nurse anesthetist is board certified. I think that’s really important and interesting to the bid that is not necessarily true for our physician counterparts. But short story, we do exactly the same thing. It’s just how we get there is a little different.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So let me just to make sure that I understand is this kind of like the difference between a family physician and a nurse practitioner where they’re doing very similar work. They have very similar powers and capabilities, so to speak. They’ve just kind of come from two different lines of education. Is that fair?

Jennifer Banek: That is fair for some folks. As I mentioned, we’re all registered nurses. And if, for instance, if I am a registered nurse and I say I want some increased responsibility, I would like to specialize in administering anesthesia. It would make more sense to go on and become a CRM versus backtracking and then going on to medical school. So we utilize the same textbooks. We have very similar clinical preparation. And yes, the analogy you make is very similar. Correct.

What does quality healthcare mean to you?

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. So what does quality healthcare mean to you?

Jennifer Banek: That’s a great question. I think it’s multifaceted, certainly. I would absolutely say quality healthcare is safe. I think that it’s efficient, and I think that it’s patient centric. I guess I would say that I think quality healthcare has a good return on investment. I think that’s absolutely something nurse anesthetists bring to the table. As I mentioned, we do the same thing as our physician anesthesiologist counterpart, yet it costs significantly less to train us. So I think return on investment is something that’s really important for folks in hospital administration to consider when they’re determining their anesthesia delivery models. But, yes, safe, efficient, patient centric. We want a good return on investment.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So safe. I understand. And efficient. I understand. Talk to me more about what you mean by patient centric, please.

Jennifer Banek: You know, I think it’s really important. It’s hard not to get mixed up in bureaucratic red tape. I think it’s important that we assess patients individually. I think that it’s important that we consider their concerns. So those are the kinds of things that I need in terms of patient centric, I think it’s important that we don’t just read a patient’s chart and not connect with that patient on a personal level.

Can you give me an example of quality healthcare?

Rob Oliver: Okay. Thank you. Can you give me an example of quality health care?

Jennifer Banek: Yes. I actually think that certified registered nurse anesthetists are an example of quality healthcare. There was a time that we were proud of the fact that we were the best tech secret in healthcare, and that’s a paradigm that we’re trying to break through just because it costs significantly less to train us. We can practice independently. In fact, in rural areas throughout the United States, we are the predominant anesthesia providers in 80% of the country. So I think that there are some areas in particular academic institutions where nursing are not necessarily practicing to the full scope of their ability. And so we’re trying to show folks that are the decision makers, lawmakers people in hospital administration, that they should really capitalize on our skills and our expertise in administering anesthesia.

Rob Oliver: What would you say is the primary difference between a nursing approach and the medical school approach?

Jennifer Banek: Well, I should say I’ve practiced extensively with physician anesthesiologist. I think there is a place in health care for all of us. I think that as a nurse, I have been at the bedside since very early on in my training, and I think that’s really important in that I was exposed to patients very quickly as I was learning this profession. So I think making that connection with patients, the part that I mentioned to you earlier that’s so important. I think we are trained extensively to focus on the patient. Absolutely. There is a place for the academics and the science and all of those things that we learn that’s really important, too. But it’s important to be able to communicate that to our patients so that they understand why we’ve made the choice that we’ve made in terms of the most safe anesthetic for them to be having for this particular procedure. I think it’s important to be able to communicate on the same level with our patients wherever they are in terms of their understanding of the process. So I think that’s a significant difference, something that nurses bring to the table in this type of profession.

What do you wish people understood about your role in healthcare?

Rob Oliver: Okay. So you said that in some ways nurse anesthetists have been typically one of the best kept secrets in healthcare. So here’s your chance to do an ad for nurse anesthetist. What do you wish people understood about your role in healthcare?

Jennifer Banek: Yeah, anesthetist is a very difficult word to say. I think that’s been as you mentioned earlier. I think that’s been hard for us in terms of our branding. I think that nurses have typically been undervalued in health care, and I wish that people put greater emphasis on understanding of the importance of what nurses bring to the table. That oftentimes nurses are the voice between you know, if you’re a bedside nurse, I’m not talking as an advanced practice nurse, but if you’re a bedside nurse, you’re oftentimes the bridge between the patient and what the physician knows about you. I find that a little frustrating that nurses are undervalued in that fashion. And I think sometimes then when we become advanced practice nurses, that nurse Identifier makes us somehow less than. And I think it’s really important that people know what we do bring to the table, and then that nursing background is very important and at the same time, like I said, we do the same thing as our physician nesthesiologist counterparts.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So I think I’m hearing what you’re saying, and that is that nurses, especially a bedside nurse, is going to spend a lot more time with the patient and they’re much more accessible to patients than a physician would be. And so the patient is in some ways communicating with the physician through the nurse to say, I need this, and then the nurse is going to the physician to say the patient feels that they need this, and then on the counterpart, the physician is relying sometimes on the nurse’s notes and what the nurses saying, to say, okay, what’s going on with this patient and that information? I think you said kind of the go between or the bridge that goes, it’s got two way traffic between the patient and the physician. And sadly, it sounds like some people in the medical community view them as just being a nurse. They’re just a nurse. And so when it becomes a nurse anesthetist, well, it’s just a nurse as opposed to a doctor of anesthesiology. What’s your reaction to what I have, I think, understood?

Jennifer Banek: Yeah, I know you’re absolutely spot on in your summary. I’m very involved in the state and the National Association because my job, I see, is to talk to legislators and educate and inform those people that are making decisions about how we practice within our state. So, yeah, I think you’re spot on.

What excites you about the future of healthcare?

Rob Oliver: Okay. So let’s talk about this then. What excites you about the future of healthcare?

Jennifer Banek: Well, I think we have a long way to go, but I do think that we are beginning to have the discussions that we need to have in terms of access to health care for everybody. And so I’m excited about those conversations. I think that in terms of being a nurse anesthetist, I think we have the science and the economics on our side, which I think is exciting because I think we kind of created like this health care bubble where we have this inflated notion that people could smoke, they could eat whatever they wanted, they could really take their health for granted, so to speak. And there weren’t any consequences. We could afford that for as long as possible. And we know that’s simply not the case. So I think in terms of the legislative side, I think that there’s a lot more opportunities in terms of access to care for everybody. In addition, I am a strong proponent of patient accountability. In other words, having to have regular appointments and for there to be incentives to not be morbidly obese, for there to be incentives not to smoke, for people to take accountability for their own health. I think we have a long way to go, but I think we’re starting to have the conversations that we need to have. So I think that’s helpful.

Rob Oliver: Right. So in some ways. What you’re talking about is we’re changing the conversation around health care. And rather than it being you do whatever you want and then you look to health care to help you ameliorate the consequences of your poor decisions. Okay. Let’s do the education so that people are making good decisions to begin with and not having the long term effect of that. Am I properly understanding that?

Jennifer Banek: Yeah. And I think the other part of who we are as a country is that we have said that we will not turn anybody away in the emergency room. And so by not offering preventative care, though, sometimes there’s things that become an emergency that didn’t necessarily need to become an emergency. There’s all of these kind of boundaries. I don’t foresee that ever changing for us to ever say, oh, you don’t look or sound the right way or you don’t have the proper insurance company or insurance carrier. So we’re not going to take care of you today. I don’t see that ever happening. So we need to kind of apply pressure in these different areas. Like I said, we have, for instance, my profession and advanced practice nurse. We have the patient and accountability, and then we have trying to prevent things that don’t need to become an emergency from becoming an emergency. So we need to apply pressure to all of those different components to hit the I call it the Goldilocks, the just right spot, right.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. No, I think that’s a brilliant analogy. I will say I’m here in Pittsburgh, and in Pittsburgh, we have a city that’s literally divided in half in which there are two primary insurance companies, and they each have their own network. And so whichever insurance company you have subscribed to, you basically only get access to half of the city’s healthcare resources, which is sad and difficult. And I can’t figure out why that has happened. Maybe, as you’ve said, there needs to be some legislative advocacy to work on that, but that’s above my pay grade. Last question for you is this.

What can medical providers do to improve the quality of healthcare their patients receive?

Rob Oliver: What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Jennifer Banek: I think it’s really important for healthcare professionals to dialogue with their legislators. Oftentimes healthcare providers don’t sit at the table within our capitals, within our States or in Washington, DC. And so I think that healthcare providers need to get to know who their legislators are and tell them what they are seeing such that our laws can most benefit the folks living in those areas. So I think oftentimes as health care providers, we’re pretty empathetic in having those discussions. And I think it’s important that either we’re at the table either that we run for public office or we let our legislators know exactly what’s going on. That’s how we’re going to come up with creative solutions.

Rob Oliver: Okay. So it’s really interesting to hear you say that. That’s something that I have not heard suggested yet. On the show, which is wonderful. I had Sam Rhee on who is a plastic surgeon from New Jersey and his thing was that medical professionals need to get more involved in the process. So he was talking about it on a local level, being involved in committees at the hospital and being involved in different ways in your community and in the healthcare environment and setting in which you reside and work. And you’re talking about taking it up to the next level to do state and national level advocacy that benefits not just your profession, but it benefits the patients that you serve, which I think is a great suggestion. So listen, Jennifer, thank you so much for being with me today. I appreciate you. First of all, we hadn’t had anybody from Illinois yet, so thank you for that. We hadn’t had a nurse anesthetist yet, which thank you for that. I appreciate you being on the show and bringing that perspective on health care.

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Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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