5 things every nurse needs to know about CRNAs

iStock | Marko Volkmar
iStock | Marko Volkmar

How much do YOU know about nurse anesthetists? Perhaps surprisingly, they’ve been providing anesthesia care to patients in the U.S. for more than 150 years. Today, more than 48,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and student registered nurse anesthetists provide more than 34 million anesthetics to patients in all 50 states each year.

Whether you work with a CRNA, are considering becoming one or are just curious about the career path, here are the top five things you should know about these anesthesia specialists.

1. They undergo exceptional education and training.
CRNAs administer every type of anesthesia to all types of patients in any healthcare setting where anesthesia is required. They power through a minimum of seven to eight years of education, training and experience before receiving their master’s or doctoral degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). After graduating, they must pass the National Certification Examination to become certified to practice as a CRNA. CRNAs also must be recertified every two years.

2. They have a stellar safety record.
Anesthesia care today is nearly 50 times safer than it was just 30 years ago. Recent studies have confirmed that anesthesia is equally safe regardless of whether it is delivered by a CRNA working alone, an anesthesiologist working alone or a CRNA working in collaboration with an anesthesiologist. All anesthesia care is given the same way.

3. They ensure access to anesthesia care.
CRNAs administer more than 34 million anesthetics to patients in the U.S. each year and are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America. In some states, CRNAs are the only anesthesia professionals in nearly 100 percent of rural hospitals. CRNAs are also the primary providers of anesthesia services to maternity patients, veterans, the military and inner-city communities.

4. They play a critical role in the patient care team.
CRNAs collaborate with other members of the patient care team including surgeons, endoscopists, radiologists, podiatrists, obstetricians, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians, other physician specialists and operating room personnel. They’re responsible for the safety and comfort of their patients throughout the procedure, monitoring vital signs and adjusting the anesthesia as necessary. In addition, CRNAs are always prepared to analyze situations and respond quickly in emergencies.

5. They’re the most cost-effective anesthesia providers.
Research shows that the most cost-effective anesthesia delivery model is a CRNA working as the sole anesthesia provider. Because CRNAs provide high-quality anesthesia care with reduced expense, they help meet today’s healthcare challenge of delivering safe, quality care to more people without burdening the healthcare system.

A new campaign called “CRNAs: The Future of Anesthesia Care Today” created by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is raising awareness about the benefits of CRNAs. Visit future-of-anesthesia-care-today.com to learn more.

Nurses, would you be interested in pursuing a career as a CRNA? Are you currently enrolled in a CRNA program? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

Founded in 1931, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is the professional association representing more than 48,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and student registered nurse anesthetists nationwide. The AANA develops and publicizes practice standards, guidelines and educational content, and provides consultation to both private and governmental entities regarding nurse anesthetists and their practice. The AANA Foundation supports the profession by awarding education and research grants to students, faculty and practicing CRNAs. More than 90 percent of the nation’s nurse anesthetists are members of the AANA.

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