Certified registered nurse anesthetists are anesthesia specialists who administer about 65 percent of the 26 million anesthetics given to patients in the United States every year.
CRNAs are independently responsible for the quality of their anesthesia care. They provide anesthetics to patients in collaboration with surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, anesthesiologists, podiatrists and other qualified healthcare professionals. Anesthesia that is administered by a nurse anesthetist is considered the practice of nursing. Anesthesia that is administered by an anesthesiologist is considered the practice of medicine.
CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered: hospital surgical suites and obstetrical delivery rooms; critical access hospitals; ambulatory surgery centers; offices of dentists, ophthalmologists, pain management specialists, plastic surgeons and podiatrists; and U.S. Military, Public Health Services and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.
CRNAs are the sole anesthesia providers in two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States, enabling these healthcare facilities to offer obstetrical, surgical and trauma stabilization services.
CRNAs represent 80 percent of the anesthesia providers serving in Iraq. They often are the only anesthesia providers in frontline infantry units.
Anesthesia safety rates are at an all-time high, thanks to improved technology and pharmaceuticals as well as increased education for nurse anesthetists and physician anesthesiologists. Since the 1980s mortality rates from anesthesia have fallen to today’s low of one death for every 240,000 anesthetics given.
More than 40 percent of the nation’s 30,000 nurse anesthetists are men, compared with 8 percent in the nursing profession as a whole.
Nurse anesthetists are well educated. Following are typical requirements to become a CRNA:
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or other appropriate baccalaureate degree
- A current license as a registered nurse
- At least one year of experience in an acute-care setting
- Graduation with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited training program in nurse anesthesia, averaging 24 to 36 months depending on the program. There are 92 nurse anesthesia programs with more than 1,000 affiliated clinical sites in the United States.
- All programs include clinical training in university-based, military and/or large community hospitals
- Pass a national certification examination following graduation.
Here is a profile of a “typical” CRNA who practices in the state of Alaska.