A nurse anesthetist is a nurse who specializes in the administration of anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia care to patients in the United States for nearly 150 years. Moreover, nurse anesthetists are the oldest nurse specialty group in the United States. There are 40,000 nurse anesthetists that practice in all 50 states and administer approximately 32 million anesthetics given to patients in the United States each year. Being a nurse anesthetist is very rewarding profession as the average reported annual salary range in 2006 was approximately $140,000.
History of nurse anesthetists
The first American nurse anesthetists were administering anesthesia during the American Civil War. There were many of them but the first "official" nurse anesthetist was Sister Mary Bernard, a Catholic nun who practiced in 1877 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. Historical evidence suggests that more than 50 Catholic sisters practiced anesthesia during the last twenty years of 19th century.
The first school for nurse anesthesiologists was established in 1909, in Oregon. The course lasted six months and included courses on anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and administration of common anesthetic agents.
Educational programs for nurse anesthetists continued to develop. On June 17, 1931, pioneer nurse anesthetist Agatha Hodgins founded the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NANA) in Cleveland, Ohio. Today, this institution is known as the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Today, nurse anesthetists are certified by the certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and the institution keeps maintaining high level of professionalism. According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, anesthesia care is nearly 50 times safer than it was in the early 1980s.
Requirements for becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist
General requirements for becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) usually include having a bachelor's degree in nursing, or other fitting baccalaureate degree, Registered Nurse licensure, a minimum of one year’s experience in an acute care nursing setting, and the successful completion of both an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program and the certification test.
Normally, it takes at least seven years of education and experience to obtain this certificate. An average student nurse works at least 1,694 clinical hours and administers more than 790 anesthetics. It is estimated that each year between 1.300 and 1.700 students graduate and go on to pass their certification exam.
However, this is one of the professions that demand continuing education and certified registered nurse anesthetists are obliged to recertify each 2 years. In 1990, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published results of study indicating a growing need for additional nurse anesthetists.