A Massachusetts dentist named W.T.G. Morton began using anesthesia in 1846 to relieve some of the pain his dental patients were experiencing. A year later, J.Y. Simpson, a British doctor, began giving women in labor chloroform to reduce pain during childbirth. Ever since, most doctors have used some form of anesthesia during surgery, but for years it was an imperfect science since doctors would often ask people without any medical knowledge or training to administer anesthesia. In fact, between 1850 to 1875 most surgery related deaths resulted from improper use of anesthesia or infection. During 1875, most doctors claimed anesthesia was the number one cause of surgery related deaths. Doctors attributed these deaths to the unskilled individuals administering anesthesia. After this time period, doctors throughout the United States and Europe proposed that nurses obtain specialized training in the administration of anesthesia. Ever since, nurse anesthetists have been administering anesthesia to patients to reduce pain during surgery.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) specialize in administering anesthesia to individuals undergoing surgical and other medical procedures. These specialists administer various anesthetics, practice at hospitals, medical clinics, etc., and assist patients undergoing all types of medical procedures, including chronic pain management, heart surgery, and cosmetic surgery.
CRNAs work closely with surgeons, doctors, dentists, and other medical specialists when administering anesthesia. However, since they complete extensive training, they are given quite a bit of discretion in performing their duties.
The practice of nurse anesthetists began during the Civil War. Across the United States, 36,000 nurse anesthetists are currently practicing, 50 percent of which are men. In the entire nursing profession, only 8 percent of nursing practitioners are men. In rural American regions CRNAs are often the only specialists available to administer anesthesia. As a result, many rural healthcare clinics and hospitals now offer surgical and obstetrical services. In certain states, CRNAs are the only anesthetic specialists working at rural healthcare facilities.
Many managed healthcare providers prefer utilizing CRNAs since they provide excellent care and cost less than anesthesiologists. Relying on CRNAs is enabling many insurance companies to reduce costs. In the mid 1980’s, the United States’ Congress enacted a law allocating Medicare funds to reimburse organizations for the cost of services provided by nurse anesthetists.
CRNAs are employed in every medical setting where patients receive anesthesia, including hospitals, surgical units, obstetrical delivery rooms, dental offices, doctors’ clinics, chronic pain management clinics, plastic surgery centers, veterans’ hospitals, and military hospitals.
Job opportunities are projected to be excellent for nurse anesthetists for many years to come. The Department of Health and Human Services has reported that CRNAs are in high demand nationwide.
Before being admitted into a nurse anesthesia degree program, you will be required to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, be licensed as a RN, and have a minimum of 1 year of work experience in a facility where acute care is provided. Nurse anesthesia degree programs are available at the master’s level, typically take 2-3 years to complete, and include hands-on training at hospitals.
After earning a degree, you will be required to pass a national exam before becoming certified. You’ll then be required to complete at least 40 hours of continuing education requirements every 2 years to remain certified.
The following are medical facilities where nurse anesthetists practice:
- General hospitals
- Obstetrical delivery rooms
- Dental clinics
- Podiatrist clinics
- Ophthalmologist clinics
- Plastic surgeon clinics
- Military hospitals
- Veteran’s hospitals
- Public health centers
- Surgical clinics
Since they’re considered advanced practice specialists, CRNAs are respected professionals with immense autonomy. They have numerous specialized responsibilities, and so they receive high annual salaries. On average, CRNAs make more than $90,000 a year and as much as $150,000 a year.
The following are a list of requirements that must be satisfied to practice as a CRNA:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
- Become a licensed registered nurse
- Complete a year minimum of acute nursing experience
- Earn a degree from a recognized nurse anesthesia training program. Most programs take 2-3 years to complete
- Pass the national nurse anesthetist certification test
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