Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

crnaNurse anesthetists provide anesthesia and related care before and after surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic and obstetrical procedures. They also provide pain management and emergency services, such as airway management. The practice of anesthesia is a recognized specialty within the profession of nursing.

Nurse anesthetists are a very important and essential part of the healthcare workforce. The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) administers anesthesia for all types of surgical cases, from the very simplest to the most complex cases.
CRNAs provide anesthesia in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists and other qualified healthcare professionals and practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered, i.g. In traditional hospital surgical suites, obstetrical delivery rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, dentists’ offices, pain management clinics, and many more. Nurse anesthetists’ have long held an important role in the Military and on the battlefield as well.

As an independently licensed health professional, the CRNA is of special importance in medically underserved areas. With CRNAs on staff, healthcare facilities can offer surgical, obstetrical, trauma and other stabilization services where otherwise it would not be possible. In many states now, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia services in the majority of rural hospitals.

The credentialed CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) came into existence in 1956. As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs practice with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. They also carry a huge load of responsibility and are compensated accordingly. In order to be a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), advanced education and training are required. The field is demanding, and thus the preparation for it must be as well.

CRNAs administer anesthesia and anesthesia-related care in four general categories: (1) pre-anesthetic preparation and evaluation; (2) anesthesia induction, maintenance and emergence; (3) post-anesthesia care; and (4) perianesthetic and clinical support functions.

CRNAs also provide clinical support services outside of the operating room. Anesthesia and anesthesia- related services are expanding to other areas, such as MRI units, cardiac catheterization labs and lithotripsy units. Upon request or referral these services include providing consultation and implementation of respiratory and ventilatory care, identifying and managing emergency situations, including initiating or participating in cardiopulmonary resuscitation that involves airway maintenance, ventilation, tracheal intubation, pharmacologic, cardiopulmonary support, and management of blood, fluid, electrolyte and acid-base balance.


Administrative and Other Professional Roles

Many CRNAs perform administrative functions for departments of anesthesia. The services provided by these department directors and managers are extremely important to the overall functioning of an anesthesia department and directly affect the efficiency and quality of service provided. These functions include personnel and resource management, financial management, quality assurance, risk management and continuing education.



Some CRNAs have chosen to specialize in pediatric, obstetric, cardiovascular, plastic, dental or neurosurgical anesthesia. Others also hold credentials in fields such as critical care nursing and respiratory care.

In addition to their membership in the AANA, a lot of CRNAs also belong to a wide variety of anesthesia and subspecialty organizations, including the following:

International Anesthesia Research Society

American Society of Regional Anesthesia

American Association of Critical Care Nurses

American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses

Association of PeriOperative Room Nurses

American Association of Respiratory Care

American Pain Society

Society of Office Based Anesthesia

Society for Obstetrical Anesthesia Perinatology

Society for Ambulatory Anesthesia


Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses that safely provide more than 32 million anesthetics for surgical, obstetrical and trauma care cases each year in the United States. They administer every type of anesthetic, work in every type of practice setting and provide care for every type of operation or procedure ranging from open heart surgery to various pain management programs.


Typical Anesthesia Duties are:

1: Preanesthesia assessment

2: Requesting laboratory/diagnostic studies

3: Preanesthetic medication

4: General anesthesia and adjuvant drugs

5: Regional anesthesia techniques

6: Subarachnoid

7: Epidural

8: Caudal

9: Diagnostic and therapeutic nerve blocks

10: Local infiltration

11: Topical

12: Periocular block

13: Transtracheal

14: Intracapsular

15: Intercostal

16: Sedation techniques

17: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation management

18: Invasive and noninvasive monitoring

19: Airway management techniques

20: Mechanical ventilation/oxygen therapy

21: Fluid, electrolyte, acid-base management

22: Blood, blood products, plasma expanders

23: Peripheral intravenous/arterial catheter placement

24: Central venous catheter placement

25: Pulmonary artery catheter placement

26: Acute and chronic pain therapy

27: Post anesthesia care/discharge


Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia in the United States for over 125 years, beginning with their care of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. There currently are more than 36,000 nurse anesthetists in the United States – approximately 45% of whom are men (as compared with 8% men in the nursing profession as a whole). CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in approximately two thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States, enabling these healthcare facilities to offer obstetrical, surgical and trauma stabilization services. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of rural hospitals. As advanced practice registered nurses, they are given a high degree of autonomy and professional respect.

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 healthcare facilities of the military, Public Health Service and Veterans’ Affairs.

The path to becoming a CRNA begins with a 4-year undergraduate degree in nursing or another field. Although it is not required to possess a degree in nursing, a current license as a registered nurse is required to enter a nurse anesthesia program. After acquiring the necessary experience in an acute care setting, students will enter a doctorate program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). Clinical residencies afford supervised experiences for students during which time they are able to learn anesthesia techniques, test theory, and apply knowledge to clinical problems. Students gain experience with patients of all ages who require medical, surgical, obstetrical, dental, and pediatric interventions.

Graduates must then pass the national certification examination. Recertification is required of CRNAs on a biennial basis.

CRNAs carry a heavy load of responsibility and are compensated accordingly. The reported average annual salary in 2012 was approximately $157,000, with the more experienced CRNAs earning up to $214,000 each year.


Are you a CRNA? Would you like more information on becoming one? Please leave a comment below.


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George Tall

Author at Hug Your Nurse
George Tall works in the legal field, is a father of three, and a husband of a RN for 25 years. He enjoys writing about everything, especially nursing! He has been writing for a living, at least partially, since around 2000. As an author on dozens of websites, he enjoys being factual, while spinning a bit of humor where possible.
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