By Ann Culp
Most patients don’t know about certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) until they need one. Yet, when the time comes, these advanced practice nurses never leave your side. No matter the procedure, from open-heart surgery to pain management to basic outpatient treatments, CRNAs are with you every step of the way in any setting where you need anesthesia care.
CRNAs are the main hands-on provider of anesthesia care, practicing in every setting where anesthesia is administered, including hospital operating and delivery rooms; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and plastic surgeons; and pain management centers. More than 49,000 CRNAs safely administer well over 34 million anesthetics nationwide each year.
CRNAs have a well-established tradition of administering anesthesia, and that culture of care continues to this day. CRNAs were the first professional group to provide anesthesia in the United States and are the oldest recognized group of advanced practice registered nurse specialists in the country, with a history that spans back to the Civil War.
Training and education programs are rigorous.
In Pennsylvania, nurse anesthetists must obtain a bachelor’s degree, graduate with a minimum of a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia accredited program, complete additional hours of clinical work (the average student nurse anesthetist completes almost 2,500 clinical hours) and pass a national exam in order to be able to practice.
CRNAs also must be a Registered Nurse (RN), and they must be recertified every four years. Nurse anesthetists’ recertification includes meeting advanced practice requirements and obtaining a minimum of 40 continuing education credits.
Because of this training and experience, numerous medical studies show there is no statistical difference in patient outcomes when a nurse anesthetist provides treatment. In fact, these studies by nationally recognized health-care policy and research organizations prove that CRNAs provide high-quality care, even for rare and difficult procedures.
As health-care demands continue to grow, increasing the number of CRNAs will be a key to containing costs while maintaining quality care. The Federal Trade Commission recently cautioned states against policies that restrict advanced-practice nurses’ work.
Pennsylvania is a leader in the field. Our commonwealth ranks among the top states for drawing certified registered nurse anesthetist students for education and training — there are 12 nurse anesthetist programs spread out across our state.
The General Assembly currently is considering legislation that would create an official CRNA designation in statute. Defining CRNA in Pennsylvania law not only helps with students and advanced practice nurses here, but it also would carry across borders, helping us maintain our professional leadership in educating and training CRNAs from across the country.
CRNAs are skilled practitioners who increase access to care, reduce cost and ensure quality.
CRNAs also are the primary anesthesia providers in rural America. In fact, more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals rely on CRNAs to provide anesthesia care in these medically underserved areas. Without these advanced practice nurses, some 1,500 facilities would not be unable to maintain trauma stabilization and surgical and obstetrical capabilities, forcing many rural Americans to travel long distances for such services.
In today’s changing health-care environment, patients want health care delivered with personal care, at a lower cost, with a high degree of confidence. CRNAs deliver all of these by staying with their patients throughout the entire procedure; they ensure that the whole of the patient is cared for, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The bottom line is this: CRNAs are highly-skilled advance practice nurses who ensure the highest level of care and pain management to those they serve, using all anesthetic techniques and practicing in every type of setting in which anesthesia is delivered.
Know about nurse anesthetists before you need one. Visit www.PANAforQualityCare.com.
Ann Culp, CRNA, DNP, is president of the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA) which represents more than 3,000 CRNAs and students in the Commonwealth.