Nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses specifically trained to provide anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other procedures. They meet with patients beforehand to determine the best medication choice. During surgery, they monitor patients and afterward track their response as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. Patient comfort and safety is their top concern.
CRNAs reassure patients, answer their questions or concerns, and connect with patients on a psycho-social level. They provide patient teaching to alert the person on what to expect before and after their procedure. Often, they escort the patient from the operating room to the recovery area. CRNAs often work in smaller medical or dental offices and larger hospitals alongside physician anesthesiologists.
There are two main differences between a physician anesthesiologist and a nurse anesthetist. The first is that CRNAs are considered to be working under the supervision of the physician who is performing the procedure. For physicians, anesthesiology is an independent specialty. The second is that physician anesthesiologists have more years of medical and clinical training.
However, nurse anesthetists are employed to deliver anesthesia for many of the same patients that physicians manage. Studies have shown that “CRNAs achieve the same level of safety and quality as their physician counterparts.”
Nurse anesthetists have obtained advanced practice degrees focusing on anesthesia and receive extensive clinical training. In the future, they will be expected to complete doctoral degrees (DNAPs) to be able to practice.