Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are one of the most advanced types of nurses. They are responsible for providing quality anesthesia and anesthesia-related care in order to facilitate diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical procedures (America Association of Nurse Anesthetists, 2010). While their services are mainly used in the surgical setting, CRNAs can also provide assistance for pain management associated with obstetrical labor and delivery or for chronic and acute pain. Although they typically work under the supervision of Anesthesiologists, based on states regulations and by laws, they may also work independently (Kansas University Medical Center, 2014).
Nurse Anesthetists may work in a variety of settings- from hospital surgical units, pain management centers, intensive care units and outpatient surgery centers. While many believe CRNAs are only responsible for simply administering local or general anesthesia or sedation, this is certainly not the case. Before providing any treatment, the Nurse Anesthetist is responsible for providing a patient assessment and evaluating the patient, at times referring them to any specialist if they believe the patient may have a condition that will hinder the upcoming procedure. They must also create an anesthesia plan, preparing the patient for their procedure. Preparation of a patient includes, but is not limited to setting up monitoring devices, obtaining fluids and any accessory drugs, ventilatory support and starting an IV. After administering the anesthetics and accompanying drugs, the CRNA is responsible for monitoring the patient’s reaction and adjusting the medications accordingly to ensure a smooth transition into recovery. If during the procedure any adverse effects are witnessed, the CRNA is also responsible for emergency management; they must manage the patient’s airway and provide any emergency medications or life support measures if necessary (U.S Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). Yet, whatever setting the Nurse Anesthetist chooses to work in, their main goal is to protect the patient from harm and serve as an advocate for the patient’s welfare while they are in their care (America Association of Nurse Anesthetists, 2010) .
II. Education, Registration and Certification
Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist takes on average between 7-8 years. One must first obtain a baccalaureate degree in nursing (BSN) and obtain their licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN) before moving on to graduate school. However, some universities allow individuals with an Associate’s degree in Nursing (AND) and a Bachelors in a related healthcare field to enter the master’s degree program (America Association of Nurse Anesthetists, 2010). Entrance into the graduate program is not only dependent on a BSN, but also on at least two years’ experience working in an acute care setting, such as an intensive care unit, burn unit, trauma center, or coronary care unit.