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A nurse anesthetist (or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)), is someone who has completed graduate-level education and has been board certified in anesthesia. They are capable of administering anesthesia under the oversight of an anesthesiologist, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist or other qualified healthcare professional. These advanced practice registered nurses are given a high degree of independence and respect.
A nurse anesthetist (not to be confused with an anesthesiologist assistant) is a specialist within the profession of nursing. They administer anesthesia for all types of cases, in collaboration with physicians and healthcare professionals, from the simplest to the most complex of surgeries. They can be found in many venues, including traditional hospitals, delivery rooms, dentists' offices, ambulatory surgical centres, pain management clinics and battlefields. They are independently licensed health professionals, and are often the sole providers of anesthesia services that offer surgical, obstetrical, and trauma stabilization services in rural hospitals and areas where it would otherwise not be possible. Outside of the operating room, a nurse anesthetist can provide services in other areas, such as lithotripsy units, MRI units, and cardiac catheterization labs. As well, many CRNAs perform administrative functions for the departments of anesthesia, such as personnel and resource management, quality assurance, financial management, and risk management.
A nurse anesthetist (or CRNA) administers anesthesia and anesthesia-related care in four general categories:
The nurse anesthetist must monitor the patient closely to make any adjustments that are needed in medication dosing. Evaluation of the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other measurements help determine the effectiveness of the anesthesia. The nurse anesthetist is also responsible for maintaining the patient’s airway. This is usually accomplished through the use of an intubation tube. The tube allows the nurse anesthetist to protect and control the airway, thus ensuring that the patient is breathing effectively. They must be able to identify and manage emergency situations, and can initiate and participate in cardiopulmonary resuscitation that involves tracheal intubation, ventilation, airway maintenance, and the management of fluid, blood, electrolyte and acid-base balance.
Some nurse anesthetists hold credentials in fields such as respiratory care or critical care nursing, and some choose to specialize in obstetric, neurosurgical, pediatric, dental or cardiovascular anesthesia services.
The nurse anesthetist can work in a hospital, outpatient surgery clinic, or office-based surgery centre. The environment is clinical and filled with high-tech equipment. The nurse anesthetist will work with other health care members including surgeons, nurses, and operating room technicians. The sterile environment requires the use of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, and the operating room is kept cold to reduce bacteria.
A nurse anesthetist can expect to view live surgical procedures, blood and other body fluids and unpleasant smells. During intubation the nurse anesthetist must insert the intubation tube into the lungs of the patient. They must be comfortable performing this and other medical procedures. In addition, they must meet with and educate patients regarding what to expect from anesthesia before a procedure.
Work hours can vary significantly depending on the normal workload of the institution. Most nurse anesthetists can expect to work between 6am and midnight. They also need to be on call and available at the hospital within 30 minutes, in the event that a patient must have emergency surgery.
A nurse anesthetist candidate must be a registered nurse with a master’s degree in nursing to enter the anesthetist program. The candidate must be in satisfactory standing with the local board of nursing. Most nurses have experience in emergency or intensive care environments.
The nurse anesthetist must complete an accredited program to obtain a license; there are numerous programs in North America that offer the education necessary to become licensed. The entrance requirements vary from college to college. Most require a master’s degree in nursing, though some still allow a bachelor’s degree if the candidate has sufficient experience as a nurse.
CRNAs must complete at least six years of full-time classroom and clinical study beyond the high school level.
A nurse anesthesiologist is also referred to as a nurse anesthetist. Because these nurses are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients, they require extensive education and training.
Today, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are masters prepared advanced practice nurses who enjoy a high degree of autonomy and professional respect.
Anesthesia was first delivered during the Civil War by trained nurses, and nurses today still provide anesthesia services. So do specially trained doctors called anesthesiologists, and anesthesiologist assistants provide support services to both anesthesia nurses and anesthesiologists.
Working as a nurse anesthetist can be very challenging, fast paced, and rewarding as you are helping people feel better.
Decision-making autonomy combined with caring for acutely ill patients is all in a day's work for a nurse anesthetist. It is a mentally and physically challenging, yet rewarding career path.
I love that even though you're always working in a team with the anesthesiologist and the surgical team, you have your own space as well and you're completely responsible for making sure that the patient is comfortable throughout the surgery.
CRNAs provide anesthetics to patients in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists and other qualified healthcare professionals. As advanced practice registered nurses, they are given a high degree of autonomy and professional respect.
Nurse Anesthetists need to be prepared for a wide variety of situations, which is why the career path to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist is an intensive one. It’s also why Nurse Anesthetists are among the most in-demand, and highest-paid, of all nursing professions.
Learn how to become a nurse anesthetist with these 10 career tips.