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CRNAs Earning the Respect They Deserve

Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist is not an easy or fast educational path.  These individuals have obtained their bachelor’s degree in nursing, worked in an intensive care unit for at least a year and pursued a master’s degree.  CRNAs must be very dedicated and intelligent to complete this rigorous academic degree. Not to mention the national licensing exam they must pass successfully after graduating. There are some in the medical field that may still think of them as a type of assistant or technician.  With 7-8 years of education and clinical practice under their belt nurse anesthetists are not a mere technician.

The following is some information on the curriculum these nurse anesthetists must complete, this alone indicates the level of knowledge and experience these nurses must have prior to practicing.

Many schools offer a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA) specialty.  The master’s degree usually takes 28-36 months to complete and includes a rigorous and intensive curriculum program.  The average course credits required for graduation is 60 course credits.  The curriculum integrates research, chemistry, physics, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology with principles of anesthetic practice to prepare students for the national CRNA examination. This exam is provided by the National Board Certification & Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists under the auspices of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).  The program also includes a variety of clinical rotations offering a wide range of experiences. The following is an overview of Duke University’s School of Nursing CRNA curriculum:

All students must complete the following clinical minimum:

550 cases and didactic minimums:

  • 45 hours of Professional Aspects of Nurse Anesthesia Practice
  • 135 hours of Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Anatomy
  • 105 hours of Pharmacology of Anesthetic Agents/Adjuvant Drugs
  • 105 hours of Principles of Anesthesia Practice
  • 30 hours of Clinical Research
  • 45 hours of Clinical Correlative Conference

If their education is not enough to inspire respect their role as a nurse anesthetist should.  The following is a general overview of the role a CRNA takes in the anesthesia medical team before, during and after surgery:

  • Performs a physical assessment of the patient.
  • Participates in preoperative teaching with the patient.
  • Prepares for the anesthetic management of a patient.
  • Administers anesthesia to keep the patient free of pain.
  • Maintains anesthesia intraoperatively
  • Oversees the patients recovery from anesthesia
  • Follows the patient’s postoperative course from the recovery room to the patient care unit.

CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in the rural United States.  CRNAs differ from anesthesiologists; they work in areas that anesthesiologists tend to avoid due to economic factors.  In some states they are the sole providers in nearly 100 percent of the rural hospitals.  They provide anesthesia care in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists and other healthcare professionals.  As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs carry a heavy load of responsibility; working in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered, including: hospital surgical suits, obstetrical delivery rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, critical access hospitals, and many doctors’ offices. Certified registered nurse anesthetists have been the main providers of anesthesia medical care to the military on the front lines since World War II, including the conflict in Iraq.  You may also find a list of CRNA functions and practice scope in detail on the AANA website, titled Scope and Standards for Nurse Anesthesia Practice.

Considering the amount of education, including CRNA courses and classes, and experience these nurse practitioners have put into their career and the responsibilities they handle every day makes them worthy of our respect.

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