CRNAs are the 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.
Culture and Traditions
CRNAs have a well-established tradition of administering anesthesia, and that culture of safe, responsible care that 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 to the Civil War. Because of that rich history, Pennsylvania ranks among the top states for CRNA students, with 14 nurse anesthetist programs spread out across our state.
Education and Experience
In Pennsylvania, nurse anesthetists must graduate with a minimum of a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia accredited program, complete thousands of additional hours of clinical work and pass a national exam in order to be able to practice. A CRNA’s 2,500 clinical hours are devoted almost entirely to anesthesia care. When you combine the clinical ICU experience as an RN required to enter CRNA training, the clinical experience obtained in an undergraduate nursing curriculum, and the clinical anesthesia training in a nurse anesthetist program, the average nurse anesthetist completes 9,000 clinical hours. CRNAs are required to be nationally certified and they must be recertified every four years. Nurse anesthetists’ recertification includes meeting advanced practice requirements and obtaining a minimum of 100 continuing education credits.
Proven Safety Record
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 cautioned states against policies that restrict advanced-practice nurses' work.
CRNAs remain the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America, enabling health-care facilities in these medically underserved areas to offer obstetrical, surgical, pain management and trauma stabilization services. Without these advanced practice nurses, some 1,500 facilities would not be able to maintain these services, forcing many rural Americans to travel long distances for care. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100 percent of the rural hospitals. CRNAs are, in fact, far less costly for hospitals to employ, so rural hospitals are able to staff emergency services with in-house CRNAs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so that every Pennsylvania resident has access to these needed services. Unfortunately, right now there are 646 rural American hospitals at risk of closure due to financial issues, comprising around 30 percent of all rural hospitals in the U.S., according to the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform. Roughly one-third of rural hospitals in Pennsylvania are at risk of closing, ranking the state among the highest nationally for risk of closures, according to the analysis.
CRNAs are battle-tested providers. Nurse anesthetists have been the main providers of anesthesia care to U.S. military personnel on the front lines since World War I, and remain the primary anesthesia providers in austere combat theaters. In fact, CRNAs most commonly are the only anesthesia providers in the military’s forward surgical teams. CRNAs’ care is high-quality and safe, even in the most stressful and emergent situations, as in any active duty military circumstance. Nurses first provided anesthesia to wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
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 and ensuring that the whole of the patient is cared for --- physically, mentally and emotionally.
The Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists represents more than 3,700 certified registered nurse anesthetists and students across Pennsylvania. CRNAs are highly-skilled advance practice nurses who ensure the highest level of care to those they serve.
Founded in 1931, the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) is a professional association representing more than 59,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) and student registered nurse anesthetists nationwide.