This week, we celebrate the 150-year history of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, and the critical role they have played, and continue to play, in the medical field.
Nurses were some of the first pioneers of anesthesia.
The role of the nurse anesthetist dates back to the Civil War, when nurses were at the front line of the battlefields delivering anesthetic care to wounded soldiers.
While many people are aware of the United States’ role in the discovery and proliferation of anesthesia, far fewer are aware of the role that nurses specifically played in its development. In fact, for most of its early history, anesthesia was almost always administered by nurses, due to a shortage of professional anesthetists in the second half of the 19th century and the reluctance of most physicians at the time to administer it to patients.
That tradition continued into the twentieth century, even as anesthesia took off as a medical specialty: nurses provided the majority of anesthetic care to soldiers in World War I and World War II. And now, in the twenty-first century, registered nurses provide over 50 million anesthetics per year in the US.
Did You Know? Catholic nuns played an important role in the spread of anesthetic care and training in America. Sister Mary Bernard Sheridan was the first formally trained nurse anesthetist in the U.S., and her work was foundational in training future nurse anesthetists.
CRNAs are at the front lines of medicine.
Their day-to-day includes administering anesthesia, monitoring patients’ vital signs, and ensuring patients receive the safest and best care possible in every setting: from traditional hospitals to critical access hospitals, obstetrical delivery rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, and military healthcare facilities.
According to a poll conducted by Gallup, they belong to one of the most trusted professions in America. It is also one of the best jobs, ranking second in the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Healthcare Jobs” report.
CRNAs play a particularly crucial role in rural America, where they represent 80% of anesthesia providers. Half of rural hospitals use a CRNA-only model for labor and delivery, and the presence of CRNAs in hospitals means that rural patients can get safe and comprehensive care without driving hundreds of miles to another hospital. They also play a hugely significant role in the U.S. military as the primary providers of anesthetics to soldiers and military personnel on the front lines.
CRNAs have played a vital role in every stage of anesthesia advancement, and their dedication to providing safe anesthetic care has improved countless patients’ lives. This week, take time to honor the contributions of CRNAs to the medical field, and celebrate the nurse anesthetists in your life.