Background and History of Nurse Anesthetists

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses who provide over 49 million anesthetics for surgical, obstetrical and trauma care each year. Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia in the United States for over 150 years, beginning with the care of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Today, CRNA’s practice in a variety of organizations including private, public, state and federal government institutions, and in the military where CRNAs continue to be the primary providers of anesthesia care to U.S. military personnel on front lines, navy ships, and aircraft evacuation teams around the globe.

Anesthesia care settings where CRNAs practice include traditional hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgery centers, pain clinics, and physicians’ offices. CRNAs administer a variety of anesthetics to patients as an individual practitioner or in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists and other qualified healthcare professionals for every type of operation or procedure – from open-heart surgery to pain management programs. As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) CRNAs are given a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. Currently, there are over 54,000 nurse anesthetists and student nurse anesthetists (SRNAs) in the United States with approximate demographics of 60% women and 40% men (as compared with 10% men in the nursing profession as a whole). Additionally, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in approximately two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States.

Education Requirements and Nursing Experience

The minimum program admission criteria, experience, and education required to become a CRNA include**:

  • A baccalaureate or graduate degree in nursing.
  • An unencumbered license as a registered professional nurse and/or APRN in the United States or its territories and protectorates.
  • A minimum of one-year full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting within the United States, its territories, or a U.S. military hospital outside of the United States. The average experience of RNs entering nurse anesthesia educational programs is 2.9 years.
  • Graduation with a minimum of a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. As of August 2019, there were 121 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the United States and Puerto Rico utilizing 1,870 active clinical sites.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, all students matriculating into an accredited program must be enrolled in a doctoral program. Currently, 91 nurse anesthesia programs are approved to award doctoral degrees (Doctorate of Nursing Practice or DNP) for entry into practice.

  • The UAMS College of Nursing Nurse Anesthesia Program is a doctoral-level educational program awarding a DNP.

Nurse anesthesia educational programs range from 28-51 months, depending on university requirements. Programs include clinical settings and experiences. Graduates of nurse anesthesia educational programs have an average of 9,369 hours of clinical and nursing experience by the time they graduate and become CRNAs.

Some CRNAs pursue a fellowship in a specialized area of anesthesiology such as chronic pain management following the attainment of their degree in nurse anesthesia.

**Nurse anesthesia educational programs have admission requirements in addition to the above minimums.

Information on becoming a CRNA

For information on becoming a CRNA visit the American Association of Nurse Anesthetist website at:

https://www.aana.com/membership/become-a-crna

For information on shadowing a CRNA at UAMS, contact:

Dennis Armstrong, MSN, CRNA, Chief CRNA: DWArmstrong@uams.edu

Maranda Boyer, MSNA, CRNA, Assistant Chief CRNA: MLBoyer@uams.edu