Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) provide anesthesia in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists and other qualified healthcare professionals. When anesthesia is administered by a nurse anesthetist, it is recognized as the practice of nursing; when administered by an anesthesiologist, it is recognized as the practice of medicine. Regardless of whether their educational background is in nursing or medicine, all anesthesia professionals give anesthesia the same way.
As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs practice with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. They carry a heavy load of responsibility and are compensated accordingly.
CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered: traditional hospital surgical suites and obstetrical delivery rooms; critical access hospitals; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and pain management specialists; and U.S. military, Public Health Services, and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.
Nurse anesthetists have been the main providers of anesthesia care to U.S. military men and women on the front lines since WWI, including current conflicts in the Middle East. Nurses first provided anesthesia to wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
Managed care plans recognize CRNAs for providing high-quality anesthesia care with reduced expense to patients and insurance companies. The cost-efficiency of CRNAs helps control escalating healthcare costs.
Education and experience required to become a CRNA include:
- 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 as a registered nurse in an acute care setting.
- Graduation with a master's degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program. As of October 2009 there were 109 nurse anesthesia programs in the United States utilizing more than 1,900 approved clinical sites. These programs range from 24-36 months, depending upon university requirements. All programs include clinical training in university-based or large community hospitals.
- Pass a national certification examination following graduation.
In order to be recertified, CRNAs must obtain a minimum of 40 hours of approved continuing education every two years, document substantial anesthesia practice, maintain current state licensure, and certify that they have not developed any conditions that could adversely affect their ability to practice anesthesia.
Information source: American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
- Click Here to download a copy of CRNAs at a Glance (PDF, 65 KB).
- Click Here to download a copy of CRNAs in Washington (PDF, 328 KB).
- *To receive a copy of Quality of Care in Anesthesia, contact AANA at (847) 692-7050, or visit their web site > Resources > Practice Documents.