CRNA Week 2023: 12 Nurse Anesthetist Facts
Happy National CRNA Week 2023 from AMN Healthcare! To mark the occasion and recognize these vital healthcare practitioners, we have 12 important facts about nurse anesthetists in the United States to share with you.
"Research shows that certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are the most cost-effective anesthesia providers with an exceptional safety record," reports the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA). "In today's changing healthcare environment, patients want healthcare delivered with personal care, at a lower cost, with a high degree of confidence. CRNAs deliver all of these."
12 Facts About CRNAs
The CRNA credential was established more than 67 years ago, in 1956, although nurse anesthetists had been providing care in the United States for almost 100 years before that, according to AANA's fact sheet
CRNAs administer more than 50 million anesthetics to American patients every year, and currently make up more than 50 percent of the anesthesia workforce, according to the AANA.
The AANA also notes, "CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered: traditional hospital surgical suites and obstetrical delivery rooms; critical access hospitals; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons, and pain management specialists; and U.S. military, Public Health Services, and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities."
Locum CRNAs who work short-term assignments can be found in all of these settings, but the vast majority are in hospital settings, according to Michael C., senior recruiter for AMN Healthcare. “I would say close to 90 percent of our jobs are for inpatient hospital settings, but we also have some jobs in GI centers, ambulatory surgery centers, plastic surgery centers, etc. Anywhere you can find CRNAs, you can find locum CRNAs.”
CRNAs earn excellent compensation, with an average annual salary for a full-time nurse anesthetist at $202,470 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
"Locum CRNAs are also compensated well, and their salary rates have been steadily climbing?, Michael noted, especially after elective surgeries continued to ramp up after the initial slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Compensation rates for locum CRNA assignments can exceed $150 per hour, including salary, housing, and other reimbursed expenses.
The latest statistics from the BLS show that 43,950 nurse anesthetists are practicing in the United States, as of May 2021, with more than half (23,270) working in physician offices, 13,990 working in hospitals, 2,260 working in outpatient centers, and 2,670 working in other practitioner offices.
The BLS also projects that nurse anesthetist employment will grow 40 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than most occupations. The demand for nurse anesthetists remains strong, and AMN Healthcare expects that trend to continue: "The market for locum CRNAs is not slowing down anytime soon,” said Michael.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about some temporary changes that may have longer-term effects on nurse anesthetists and independent practice. “As the virus spread, the federal government suspended the CMS physician supervision rule for CRNAs,” noted AANA, allowing CRNAs to exercise their skills and experience and work to their full scope of practice. In fact, more than half of U.S. states have no physician supervision requirements for CRNAs.
The pandemic also elevated the role of CRNAs and their adaptability in crises. “The COVID pandemic has actually opened a lot of people’s eyes to what CRNAs can do more than just administer anesthesia. Due to staffing issues, many of us were needed to work as advanced practitioners on the units,” said Josh Davis, a locum CRNA who travels with AMN Healthcare. “We showed that we have the skills and knowledge to be extremely useful.
CRNAs are known for their specialized skills in airway management, intubation, and advanced patient assessment, including excellent patient safety records, and because of temporary changes in the law, they were able to “step up and safely fill essential healthcare needs in a time of national crisis,” reports the AANA.
Nurse anesthetists have been the main providers of anesthesia care to American soldiers on the front lines since World War I and even provided anesthesia care to wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Today, they continue to be the primary anesthesia providers in the U.S. military.
CRNAs are the primary and sometimes sole providers of anesthesia care in many rural and underserved areas of the country. The AANA reports that CRNAs represent more than 80 percent of anesthesia providers in rural counties.
As of January 2023, there are 122 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the United States, according to the Council of Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA).
Today’s CRNAs have earned a master’s or doctoral degree from a COA-accredited nurse anesthesia educational program. As of January 1, 2022, all students matriculating into an accredited program must be enrolled in a doctoral program, and by 2025, all CRNAs entering practice will graduate with a doctoral degree from an accredited program.
More than 42 percent of nurse anesthetists are men, though in nursing as a whole the figure is less than 10 percent.
The main reason nurse anesthetists choose locum CRNA assignments is for freedom and flexibility, according to Michael and Josh.
The locum CRNAs I work with enjoy having control over their schedules and being able to choose where they work and for how long. They can choose assignments where they don’t have to work holidays or take calls,” said Michael.
Freedom of schedule is the main reason I work locum CRNA assignments,” agreed Josh. I like to spend time with family, and I can find assignments that allow me to work four days instead of five, or have other options. I can also go places I like to go…I have the freedom to do what I want, and I’m able to travel with my wife and our dogs, so they can enjoy these adventures with me."
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