(BPT) - When patients hear that they'll need anesthesia to undergo surgery or a procedure, they'll likely start to worry. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, 88% percent of patients experience preanesthetic fear and in some cases that fear even causes anxious patients to cancel surgeries.
A recent American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) Foundation study on public perceptions of anesthesia found that adults worry more about their children receiving anesthesia than themselves.
"AANA study respondents reported, however that an in-person discussion of the anesthesia delivery plan could reduce those concerns," said AANA President Dina F. Velocci, DNP, CRNA, APRN. "Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists provide this with holistic, patient-centered care before, during and after anesthesia delivery."
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are anesthesia professionals who safely administer more than 50 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States. They make up more than 50% of the U.S. anesthesia workforce and specialize in airway management, intubation, advanced patient assessment and patient safety. Beyond administering safe anesthesia, they enhance the patient experience.
Nurse anesthetists spend time with patients before, during and after surgeries, providing continuous, holistic care with compassion. They are committed to patient safety and are members of one of the most trusted professions, according to Gallup. This trust and dedication to patient care has been a hallmark of CRNA anesthesia delivery since the profession started when nurses provided anesthesia to wounded soldiers on the Civil War battlefields.
"CRNAs are highly educated and skilled anesthesia experts who deliver specialized care to all patients – from infants to seniors – for every type of procedure in all types of facilities," said Velocci. "Every day, CRNAs show up as health care leaders who are able to provide in-the-moment personalized care in mindful ways that address the patient's needs physically and emotionally."
This is true in the operating room as well as in health care systems. With years of critical care practice before entering nurse anesthesiology training, CRNAs have a hands-on understanding of how health care is delivered from start to finish, allowing them to calm patients' fears of anesthesia and surgery, leading to better post-procedure outcomes.
"CRNAs are always at a patient's side—from the moment we meet the patient in pre-op, through their surgery and in post-op," said Velocci. "Patients can rest assured that a CRNA is serving as their advocate during surgical procedures."
Experienced anesthesia providers
As advanced practice registered nurses with specialized education and clinical experience in anesthesia delivery, CRNAs are trained to handle all aspects of anesthesia care. CRNAs have a minimum of 7 to 8½ years of clinical experience and training before they are licensed to deliver anesthesia. They are qualified to make independent judgments regarding all aspects of anesthesia care based on their education, licensure and certification. CRNAs are the only anesthesia professionals with critical care experience before beginning formal anesthesia education.
Because of the rigorous academic and clinical requirements for their recertification, CRNAs are well versed in the latest advancements so that patients receive the best, safest care possible.
Where do they practice?
Nurse anesthetists collaborate with surgeons, dentists, podiatrists, physician anesthesiologists, and other qualified health care professionals to provide anesthesia.
You'll find nurse anesthetists at hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, clinics, dentists' offices, the military, public health service and veteran health care facilities.
In rural areas, CRNAs are crucial to providing medical care, providing more than 80% of the anesthesia in rural counties. Half of U.S. rural hospitals use a CRNA-only model for obstetric care. Because of the presence of a CRNA to provide safe pain management, patients are saved long drives of 75 miles or more to access the care they need.
The value of CRNAs
CRNAs know what works, what does not and what needs to be done to improve the U.S. health care system. They see firsthand the results of racism and inequality, poverty, violence, substance abuse, unequal education, and inadequate mental health care. Nurse anesthetists are critical thinkers who approach these health care issues with the patient care continuum in mind.
CRNAs are also efficient and cost-effective. CRNAs deliver anesthesia, avoid duplication of services, promote efficient anesthesia providers' utilization and reduce cost. As the U.S. continues to experience limited health care resources, CRNAs are vital to continuing anesthesia in all settings.
"CRNAs provide courageous, compassionate care wherever they are needed," said Velocci. "Without nurse anesthetists, patients would lose their primary advocate, and our country would lose part of its largest health profession."
To learn more about the role and duties of CRNAs, visit AANA.com.