Get to know your CRNAs

by Lt. Col. Dennis Turner
212th Combat Surgical Hospital

For more than 150 years, nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia to patients in the U.S. National Nurse Anesthetist Week, which takes place from Sunday to Jan. 28. This time is set aside as a time to recognize the caring, vigilant and proud heritage and professionalism of the certified registered nurse anesthetist.

While the anesthesia care provided by a CRNA is identical to that provided by an anesthesiologist, the two professions are not the same.

An anesthesiologist is a physician who has completed specialized anesthesia training after medical school. A CRNA is an advanced practice registered nurse who, after earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing and obtaining acute nursing care
experience, completes a rigorous anesthesia specialized master’s degree graduate level nursing program. This university based program includes the study of physics, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and more than 1,000 hours of clinical anesthesia experience. There are currently more than 100 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the U.S., three of which are operated by the military.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists provide general and regional anesthesia for all types of patients, including general anesthesia for surgery in the operating room, sedation for procedures in the emergency room, and epidurals for labor pain control in the labor and delivery unit.

Since the late 1800s, nurses have been providing anesthesia care to patients having surgery and other medical procedures. Today, most anesthetics in the U.S. are provided by a CRNA with nearly 100 percent of anesthetics in rural areas being performed by a CRNA. Nurses have been providing anesthesia for Soldiers since the Civil War and have been the predominant military anesthesia provider from World War I to current conflicts in the Middle East.

For further information about CRNAs, visit the websites for the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists at and