Advanced Practice Locums July 2, 2023

#CRNAweek 2016: History of Nurse Anesthetists & Other Essential CRNA Information

With more than 36,000 practicing certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) nationwide, the CRNA profession is deeply ingrained in our nation's healthcare network, a flourishing profession within an evolving surgical landscape.

This week, the healthcare industry is proud to celebrate CRNA professionals, students, and patients in what was formerly known as National Nurse Anesthetists Week (NNAW). In 2014, the name of this week of commemoration was revised to the name we use today: National CRNA Week.

The theme of this year's CRNA Week is “Making a difference, one patient at a time: Visible, Valuable, Vigilant,” per the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). You can access AANA's CRNA Week promotional materials here.

In honor of National CRNA Week 2016, AMN Healthcare delves into the history, details, and employment outlook of the centuries-old pursuit. We hope these key facts about CRNAs will showcase the hard work and dedication required for the position while demonstrating the line of work’s crucial and growing role in healthcare.

Whether you're a CRNA, or simply a clinician interested in learning more about the unique career path, happy CRNA Week from AMN Healthcare!

A Brief History Of Nurse Anesthetists In The United States

The utilization of nurse anesthetists dates back to the 1800s when nurses would offer fallen soldiers anesthesia on the Civil War battlefield. Devoted to reducing the pain experienced by those who undergo surgery or other medical treatments, nurse anesthetists were the first healthcare providers dedicated to the specialty of anesthesia, and represent one of the first nursing specialty groups in the United States.

The most well-known nurse anesthetist of the nineteenth century was Alice Magaw. Christened the “Mother of Anesthesia,” Magaw worked in St. Mary’s Hospital (now the Mayo Clinic), publishing her findings and mastery between 1899 and 1906. Magaw is esteemed for her open-drop inhalation technique of administering anesthesia, as well as her use of ether and chloroform. In one of her articles, Magaw cited more than 14,000 anesthetics distributed without complications.

Since the first World War, military nurse anesthetists have operated as the principal anesthesia providers in nearly every war the United States has waged, putting their lives on the line to save soldiers in combat. Learn more about the history of nurse anesthetists with this downloadable overview from the AANA.

CRNA Information: Career Requirements & Employment Statistics

As of May 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 36,590 nurse anesthetists are employed, with a significant number (21,280) working in the offices of physicians. Specialty hospitals (except those concentrated on psychiatric and substance-abuse fields) generally offer the highest pay, with a mean annual wage of $171,120. Overall, the average nurse anesthetist earns $158,900 a year.

Nurse anesthetists are especially crucial in underserved or rural areas, where they may very likely be the sole providers of surgical, obstetric, pain management, and trauma services. According to the AANA, the scope of the profession encompasses “preanesthetic preparation and evaluation, anesthesia induction, maintenance and emergence, postanesthesia care,” along with “perianesthetic and clinical support functions.” CRNAs monitor vital signs and oversee patient recovery.

The occupation carries a bright outlook, as staffing shortages and a rising number of surgeries needed overall continue to pierce the market. According to Nurse Journal, prospective nurse anesthetists should enjoy a 31 percent job growth rate over the next decade.

How does a nurse anesthetist become a CRNA? Here are the standard requirements:

  • earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing
  • graduate from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • receive licensure as a registered nurse
  • have a minimum of one year’s acute care experience (for instance, in the ICU or emergency room)
  • pass the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists’ certification examination

We invite you to use National CRNA Week 2016 as an opportunity to show your support and gratitude to these remarkable healthcare professionals. Share your stories and appreciation for nurse anesthetists on social media with the hashtag #CRNAWeek.

Thank you today and every other day, CRNAs!

Do you work in the field of anesthesia? You can trust AMN Healthcare's locum tenens job search tool to help you scout out available CRNA, physician, NP, and PA employment opportunities nationwide.

Don’t forget to join our social networks! Follow AMN Healthcare on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube for more industry tips and career information.

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