This week is National CRNA Week, our time to celebrate the nation’s 50,000+ Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and Student Registered Nurse Anesthetists (SRNAs) and the valuable role they play in our healthcare system.
In today’s ever-changing healthcare environment, patients want quality, personal care that’s delivered with the highest level of safety and in the most cost-effective manner possible. CRNAs provide just that.
Here are a few facts to help you learn more about the work of CRNAs and to clear up some common misconceptions about their profession.
CRNAs have been at work for over 150 years.
Nurse anesthetists, as they were originally known, first began providing anesthesia to wounded soldiers during the Civil War. In fact, they’ve been the main providers of anesthesia care to U.S. military personnel on the front lines since World War I. It was in 1956 when they were officially designated with the CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) credential.
CRNAs are prolific providers.
Today the nation’s 50,000+ CRNAs (more than 2,500 of which are practicing in Tennessee) safely administer around 43 million anesthetics per year to patients across the U.S.* They practice in every setting where anesthesia is delivered: hospital surgical suites and delivery rooms; ambulatory surgical centers; critical access hospitals; and the offices of dentists, opthalmologists, podiatrists, plastic surgeons, and pain management specialists; as well as U.S. military, Public Health Services, and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.
They’re also the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America, enabling healthcare facilities in these medically underserved areas to offer obstetrical, surgical, pain management, and trauma stabilization services. In fact, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in approximately 41 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
According to a 1999 report, anesthesia care had grown almost 50 times safer than in the early 1980s. And, in a landmark study, it was confirmed that anesthesia care is equally safe whether provided by a CRNA working alone, an anesthesiologist working alone, or a CRNA working with an anesthesiologist, proving there’s essentially a 0% difference in safety between CRNAs and their physician counterparts.***
CRNAs are cost-effective providers of anesthesia.
All anesthesia professionals administer anesthesia the same way, regardless of their title or educational background. Anesthesia given by a CRNA is recognized as the practice of nursing. However, when the same service is provided by an anesthesiologist, it’s recognized as the practice of medicine and thus more expensive.
Since CRNAs working alone equate to a significant savings vs. the cost of an anesthesiologist (or a CRNA working with one), the result is reduced expenses for patients and insurance companies. The cost-efficient utilization of CRNAs is doing much to help control the nation’s ever-increasing healthcare spending.
CRNAs are well educated.
Before studying to become a CRNA students must first earn a graduate degree in nursing (or a similar field), become licensed as a registered professional nurse and/or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), and work full-time as a registered nurse in a critical care setting for a minimum of one year.
Potential CRNAs must then obtain a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs and pass the National Certification Examination following graduation. Of the 115 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the U.S., Tennessee is home to six.
CRNAs work in a highly favored profession.
As advanced practice registered nurses, CRNAs work with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. The role they play in patient care often means the difference between life and death. CRNAs carry a great load of responsibility, and they are compensated accordingly.
Becoming a nurse anesthetist was named one of the 25 hottest careers by Working Women magazine in 1989, and its popularity has continued to grow ever since. More recently, in 2016, nurse anesthesia was named the #3 healthcare job (and the #4 job overall) by U.S. News & World Report.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists play a vital role in ensuring access to safe, cost-effective anesthesia care for all Americans. We dedicate this week to them!