Sponsored by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) , this week of celebration was once known as National Nurse Anesthetists Week. The Additional of “certified registered” helps people understand the rigorous training and continuing education for this specialty.
Nurse anesthetists work closely with a medical team and in some states, they are often the sole anesthetist on a team. According to the AANA, nearly 53,000 certified nurse anesthetists and student nurse anesthetists provide care throughout the country. Career growth in the field continues to attract top talent as the opportunities for lifelong learning and fast-paced advancements offer a dynamic environment. In addition, nurse anesthetists are among the highest paid nurses with a median annual salary of $165,000.
CRNAs have a vital role in patient care at all stages of surgery or a procedure. They assess patients prior to anesthesia, monitor them during the procedure, and continue to watch for any difficulties or problems after they come out of anesthesia. In this role, nurses offer compassion, comfort, and an intense focus on the details of medical care. They must assess visually and with equipment readings to understand how a patient is tolerating anesthesia.
In this career, CRNAs can work with a wide range of medical teams. They can practice in hospitals, stand-alone facilities, dentist offices, trauma teams, surgical facilities, military units, or pain management clinics to name only a few areas. The variety of settings means a CRNA can choose to work in specialties that hold particular interest or match an educational background or a life experience best.
Anyone interested in this field should have the correct path of educational attainment. According to the AANA, “graduates of nurse anesthesia educational programs have an average of 9,369 hours of clinical experience.” Programs for nurse anesthetists can range from 24 to 51 months. Program requirements can vary with the university, but will include essential clinical placements. Certification and recertification are also required to become a CRNA and maintain that professional standing. By 2022, students will be required to enter doctoral programs for this field.
Many CRNAs say the direct patient care, the satisfaction of being an essential part of the medical team, and the technical challenges of the work make this an exciting career path. In some states, CRNAs provide the majority, if not all of, the anesthesia care. Anesthesiologists work with patients of all ages and in settings so varied, their days are never the same. But the responsibility of keeping patients safe and being their advocate in a vulnerable time is rewarding.
With more than 52,000 nurse anesthetists and student nurse anesthetists, the career is thriving and attractive for several reasons. Many nurse anesthetists say the patient interaction they have is unsurpassed. They are with patients before, during, and after surgery, so there’s a necessary trust that is quickly established with the skill and care of the nurse.
Why is the AANA particularly aware of the health and wellness among student nurses looking to enter or actively studying in this field?
Student nurses are the future of the profession, and it is important to cultivate and prepare for a long and healthy career. Students who aspire to enter into nurse anesthesia programs must be healthy mentally and physically. They must have healthy outlets for stress relief, and healthy lifestyle habits that will support them throughout our educational programs.
Nurse anesthesia education programs are required by their accreditation standards to provide education content on wellness and substance use disorder. The AANA actively encourages members, students, as well as educational programs to engage whenever possible in healthy behaviors, whether that includes physical activity or simply reducing stress by encouraging individuals to take time for their loved ones or to engage in an activity they love.
The AANA is committed to providing resources and information about ways to become involved in establishing a healthy lifestyle and even offers fun runs, wellness tutorials and a massage therapy area at many of their conferences.
How does establishing good health and wellness practices now help a student nurse become better? And how will taking care of oneself now carry over once they graduate and are several years into a CRNA career?
Nursing has unique stressors like dealing with patient care situations that require critical thinking, fast decision making, and autonomy is tough. If the student nurse does not have the ability to cope with these situations autonomously, it is very difficult to care for patients. Maintaining both mental and physical health and wellness are at the foundation of successful practice.
Developing healthy lifestyle habits early, helps students handle stress more effectively, set clear goals, and develop a clear plan to achieve them. They also assist students with discipline, good study habits, prepare for clinical experiences properly, and self-evaluate objectively. It also helps to establish diet and exercise plans that can be adjusted as one transitions to practice, to avoid elimination of healthy habits out of inconvenience.
Maintaining a school-life balance is also important to develop a support system and find time for small, pleasant breaks to gives a fresh perspective and recharge. Establishing healthy behaviors and habits early is vital to long-term health, wellness, and maintenance of a successful career.
Do you have any advice for student nurses about considering this field and being aware of any challenges unique to this branch of nursing?
For student nurses considering the field of nurse anesthesia, awareness about the depth and breadth of study is valuable, but is important to be well, so that an individual will have the endurance to graduate. A strong support system and personal discipline are necessary to allow for healthy stress relief and appropriate professional conduct. Anesthesia remains the field with the highest incidence of drug abuse and unhealthy coping behaviors, due to high stress and access.
Think about what you do when stressed. Review your lifestyle habits: exercise, eating, alcohol use, and other substance use. Some prospective students may want to employ a lifestyle coach who can look at a person individually and help one to develop positive lifestyle habits that will set one up for success in graduate school and a stressful career. Good study habits, a healthy respect for one’s self and career, use of study resources, and strong, supportive relationships will be required to succeed and thrive in this field.
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