Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) safely administer approximately 32 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States. CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural hospitals in the United States, enabling these healthcare facilities to offer obstetrical, surgical and trauma stabilization services; they are the primary providers in the US Armed Forces.
Nurse anesthetists, the first healthcare providers dedicated to the specialty of anesthesia, have their roots in the 1800s, when nurses first gave anesthesia to wounded soldiers on the battlefields of the Civil War. Today, CRNAs are masters or doctoral prepared advanced practice nurses who provide anesthetics to patients in every practice setting all types of surgery and procedures.
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. CRNAs provide anesthetics to patients in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other qualified healthcare professionals, As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs practice with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. Legislation passed by Congress in 1986 made nurse anesthetists the first nursing speciality to be accorded direct reimbursement rights under the Medicare program.
Nurse anesthesia education programs are at the graduate level. The education programs are in Colleges of Nursing, Medical Colleges, and Schools of Allied Health.