CRNAs: How Nurse Anesthetists Can Help with Chronic Pain
Chronic pain doesn’t have to be your future.
A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) can help mitigate the pain patients face—by administering anesthesia in the advanced nursing field.
This is a great place to start in building your understanding of what CRNAs do. However, you may still be asking yourself questions like:
Why should patients book an appointment with a CRNA?
How did the CRNA profession begin?
What are some of the benefits these practitioners bring?
This article will offer insights into the unique role of a CRNA, including details on how to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
What Do CRNAs Do?
CRNAs are anesthesia specialists who oversee approximately 65% of the 26 million anesthetics administered to patients in the U.S. every year. We deliver anesthetics to patients alongside other qualified healthcare professionals, including:
CRNAs conduct thorough patient evaluations to decide on the type and quantity of anesthesia needed in each procedure, taking note of any allergies, existing health conditions, and medications so that we can work safely and effectively.
Ultimately, nurse anesthetists care for patients before, during, and after surgery (or whatever the diagnostic, obstetric, or therapeutic procedure may be). Emergency services and pain management play a crucial role in what we do as well—and our services are widely recognized in the medical field.
Managed care plans, for instance, acknowledge CRNAs for delivering quality care that lowers expenses for patients and insurance companies. In addition, legislation passed by Congress in 1986 approved nurse anesthetists as the first nursing specialty to be directly reimbursed by Medicare.
A key distinction between anesthesiologists and CRNAs: Both types of professionals administer anesthesia, but anesthesiologists are known to practice medicine while certified registered nurse anesthetists practice nursing. The difference in these practitioners’ roles essentially comes down to both parties’ certifications, education, and training.
CRNAs: Relieving Pain for Centuries
Anesthesia has been making pain-free surgery a reality since the 1800s. Needless to say, it’s come a long way since then.
Anesthetics were first introduced in 1846, when Massachusetts dentist William T.G. Morton used ether as an anesthetic agent. The following year, James Young Simpson used chloroform to promote pain relief during childbirth in England.
Though using general anesthesia for surgery became increasingly popular, the job was initially given to whomever was available. For this reason—given the lack of training and consistency involved in the process—anesthesia became one of the greatest causes of death in the United States and Europe during part of the 19th century.
American surgeons wanted to promote consistency and a higher standard of care. They called for designated healthcare practitioners to administer anesthesia—and so began the work of the nurse anesthetist.
The CRNA profession is quite literally steeped in history. Nurse anesthetists began administering anesthesia to wounded soldiers during the Civil War—and while the scope of our training has certainly changed since then, the importance of correctly using anesthesia remains.
Today CRNAs are required to complete a graduate-level education. We are given a great deal of autonomy in the workplace yet boast a high attention to detail. Safe and pain-free procedures remain our top priority.
It’s worth noting that CRNAs provide anesthetics in a full range of practice settings, from remote hospitals to large facilities and even specialty clinics. Some information that may be of interest:
- CRNAs are the only anesthesia providers in the majority (more than two-thirds) of America’s rural hospitals.
- CRNAs are the main providers of anesthesia to those serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Though anesthesia has been administered for centuries, safety rates are at an all-time high as a result of the new tech and training standards for CRNAs and anesthesiologists. Mortality rates have declined to one death for every 240,000 anesthetics delivered since the 1980s.
How Do You Become a CRNA?
To become a CRNA, aspiring certified registered nurse anesthetists must complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. A doctoral program is also available in the nursing field; it must be granted from an accredited educational institution.
CRNAs also need to receive national certification and get recertified every two years. Our education and training is paramount because we’re a highly autonomous bunch—qualified to make independent decisions regarding all aspects of anesthesia care, based on our education levels, licensure, certifications, and location. In some states, CRNAs can even write prescriptions without supervision.
Does this make sense? To offer a clear picture of what it takes to become a CRNA, here’s a short bulleted summary of the required education and training:
- Completion of a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN)
- Completion of a 24- to 36-month, graduate-level nurse anesthesia educational program from an accredited school (with training in a university-based or community hospital)
- A current license as a registered nurse
- No less than a year’s experience in an acute nursing care environment
- Completion of a national certification examination after graduation
Typical entry-level education is a master’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And that’s not all—BLS data also reveals a projected job growth rate of 26% for CRNAs between 2018-2028. There’s undeniably a high demand for nurse anesthetists at the moment.
A compelling fact: Both men and women are drawn to the nurse anesthetist profession. 45% of the nation’s CRNAs are men, compared to just 5% of the overall nursing field.
Nurse Anesthesiology: A Personalized and Reassuring Experience
Anesthesia and surgery affect the whole body. CRNAs recognize this and aim to make the experience as reassuring as possible for our patients.
To this end, to ensure patients receive the level of care they deserve, CRNAs will let each individual know what to expect during their procedure. We will:
- Walk the patient through their anesthetic options.
- Let the patient know which medications to stop and which ones they can continue taking leading up to their procedure.
- Inform the patient of when they need to stop eating before their procedure.
It’s perfectly natural for some to feel uneasy before undergoing anesthesia—but patients can rest assured their CRNA has all the knowledge and skills to deal with everything from pre-existing medical conditions, to sudden healthcare changes (along with any chronic conditions that may need to be addressed during surgery).
Monitoring is key and will allow the nurse anesthetist to direct your anesthesia, manage vital functions, and oversee fluid replacement as needed. The idea is for the CRNA to bring comfort and safety, all while helping patients return to a life free from pain.
We CRNAs are a highly-trained and a compassionate bunch who want nothing more than to care for our patients. At New England Ketamine, you can rest assured our family is here to take care of you and yours. We provide Ketamine Infusion Therapy for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic pain.
Casey Brachvogel, CRNA, is the owner and Director of Clinical Operations at New England Ketamine. A full-time anesthetist, he has been safely administering anesthesia for more than seven years. Casey is a team-oriented, compassionate caregiver who takes pride in helping people overcome mental health disorders and chronic pain conditions.