During National CRNA Week, Wapiti Medical Staffing recognizes and celebrates the impact nurse anesthetists make on the healthcare industry. This year, CRNA Week is Jan. 22nd-28th.
The origins of the CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetists) role stretch back to the 19th century. In 1846, Dr. William T.G. Morton became the first American to perform a successful surgery using anesthesia. Despite that, some physicians remained reluctant to use it, preferring that patients remain awake during surgery. There was also opposition to anyone other than doctors administering anesthesia.
One of the first nurses to use anesthetics was Catherine S. Lawrence, who employed chloroform to anesthetize wounded Civil War soldiers at the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1863. Forty-six years later, St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, Oregon, established the first school for nurse anesthetists. Nurse anesthetists would help fill the gap created by the shortage of anesthesiologists precipitated by the two world wars.
The Nursing Council on Accreditation developed a CRNA master’s degree program in the 1980s. Today there are 122 accredited programs in the U.S.
The path for a student interested in becoming a CRNA is 7-10 years. After completing their BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and becoming an RN (Registered Nurse), one year of experience in a critical care setting is required. The next step is a graduate degree in nurse anesthesia, followed by achieving the CRNA certification. Beginning in 2025, a CRNA must possess a doctoral degree. All CRNA programs were mandated to transition to a doctorate as of 2022.
What does a CRNA do?
A nurse anesthetist plays a vital role in a surgical patient’s care journey. Before the operation, the CRNA will perform an examination and assessment that helps determine a suitable plan based on the patient’s needs. This plan can include identifying and prescribing the appropriate pre-anesthetic medications. They will then implement all the necessary meds and fluids while monitoring the patient’s vital signs during the procedure. Postoperatively, the CRNA will help the patient recover from anesthesia and prescribe postanesthetic medications.
CRNAs are in high demand throughout the United States, reflected by the current low unemployment rate for the position. Rural states feel this shortage most acutely. Facilities often rely on nurse anesthetists as a cost-effective alternative to anesthesiologists. Thankfully, the projected entry of more CNAs into the workforce should correct the market over the next few years.
At Wapiti, we help nurse anesthetists find locum tenens opportunities and permanent placement across the country. Search our jobs to see a complete list of openings.
Facilities can browse our selection of candidates or contact the Wapiti team at (888) 733-4428.