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What is a Nurse Anesthetist?

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is a licensed registered nurse who meets the following qualifications: 

  • Holds a BSN or other appropriate baccalaureate degree
  • Has cared for critically ill patients in an ICU or other acute care setting
  • Completes a 2-3 year nurse anesthesia program to obtain a master's or doctoral degree
  • Becomes Board Certified and maintains yearly continuing education

In short, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, or CRNA, is a licensed registered nurse who received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or other appropriate baccalaureate degree and then gained valuable experience in caring for critically ill patients in an ICU or another acute care setting for a minimum of one year but generally multiple years.  The RN then takes this experience to a nurse anesthesia program for 2-3 years and graduates with either a master's degree or a doctoral degree.  In order to practice as a Nurse Anesthetist, the CRNA must be Board Certified and maintain yearly continuing education. 

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 providing anesthesia care to patients in the U.S. for 150 years  

CRNAs safely administer more than 34 million anesthetics to patients each year in the U.S. 

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. 

Numerous outcomes studies have demonstrated that there is no difference in the quality of care provided by CRNAs and their physician counterparts.* (Download the AANA's Quality of Care in Anesthesia brochure.) 

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. 

CRNAs are 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 some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of rural hospitals.

 

For more information about CRNAs, check out the AANA's "CRNAs at a Glance"

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