Nurse Anesthetists have been providing anesthesia care to patients in the United State for nearly 150 years. The credential CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) came into existence in 1956. CRNAs are anesthesia professionals who safely administer approximately 32 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) 2008 Practice Profile Survey. CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural America, enabling healthcare facilities in these medically under served areas to offer obstetrical, surgical, and trauma stabilization services. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of the rural hospitals. According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, anesthesia care is nearly 50 times safer than it was in the early 1980s. Numerous outcomes studies have demonstrated that there is no difference in the quality of care provided by CRNAs and their physician counterparts.
Role of the Nurse Anesthetist
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 a 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, opthalmologists, plastic surgeons, and pain management specialists; and the U.S. military, Public Health Services and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.