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  • Jodie Szlachta, CRNA, Ph.D.

When seconds count, CRNAs are there

National CRNA Week kicked off Jan. 21 as a way to remind patients, families, medical professionals and others: “Every Breath. Every Beat. Every Second. WE ARE THERE!”

As usual, PANA is taking it a step further, stretching National CRNA Week into a month-long campaign to introduce Pennsylvanians to the highly skilled professionals behind the mask --- the men and women who are by their side during surgical procedures, from open-heart surgery to routine outpatient procedures.

CRNAs are the face of anesthesia care in Pennsylvania. There are more than 3,000 CRNAs and CRNAs-in-training in the commonwealth, providing hands-on anesthesia care in every setting: hospital operating and delivery rooms; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and plastic surgeons; and pain management centers.

It’s time to take off that mask and help our patients know who we are and what we do. The role of a CRNA requires intensive training and education and nurse anesthesia is a high-responsibility career. CRNAs provide anesthesia care for millions of patients each year. Nurse Anesthetists are most frequently the first responders to intraoperative emergencies, acting quickly with expert knowledge and skill in the care of our patients.

The average nurse anesthetist completes 9,000 clinical hours of training when you combine the clinical ICU experience as a 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. That’s impressive. Our high level of education and clinical experience contributes to our capable, vigilant care of each patient.

CRNAs are 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. We’re battle tested, too, serving as the main providers of anesthesia care to U.S. military personnel on the front lines since World War I. CRNAs remain the primary anesthesia providers in austere combat theaters.

CRNAs are proud of their safety record and career. And that’s why this month, we are encouraging patients, families, medical professionals and others to learn more about the professionals behind the mask and appreciate the work we do. Because when it matters, nurse anesthetists are by your side for every breath, every heartbeat, every second. WE ARE THERE!

Jodie Szlachta

Jodie Szlachta, CRNA, Ph.D., is the President of the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA).

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