A CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) is a registered nurse who has specialized training in anesthesia. They can administer anesthesia for procedures and surgeries. They can work alone or with a team of healthcare providers.
A CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist or just “nurse anesthetist”) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who administers anesthesia and other medications. They also take care of and monitor people who receive or are recovering from anesthesia.
Anesthesia is a medical treatment that keeps you from feeling pain during procedures or surgery. Different types of anesthesia work in different ways. Some anesthetic medications numb certain parts of your body, while other medications work on your brain to induce sleep.
CRNAs have specialized training and knowledge to administer anesthesia safely and properly.
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Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are registered nurses educated at a master’s or doctoral level and in a specific role and patient population. APRNs are prepared by specialized education and certification to assess, diagnose and manage medical issues. They can also order tests and prescribe medications.
Types of APRNs include:
CRNAs have specific responsibilities, which include:
CRNAs are often the sole anesthesia providers in hospitals in rural parts of the United States. They’re also the main provider of anesthesia to the people who serve in the U.S. armed forces.
CRNAs can work in several different medical settings, including:
Both CRNAs (nurse anesthetists) and anesthesiologists can safely and expertly provide anesthesia, but there are some differences in their educational backgrounds.
An anesthesiologist has a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, whereas a CRNA is a registered nurse who has a doctoral-level degree and has passed the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists.
When a nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia, it’s recognized as the practice of nursing. When an anesthesiologist provides anesthesia, it’s recognized as the practice of medicine. Regardless of whether their educational background is in nursing or medicine, physician anesthesiologists and CRNAs provide anesthesia the same way.
To become a nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a person must:
Like all medical professionals, CRNAs need to complete continuing education, such as conferences, research and classes, throughout their career to keep up with advances and technology in their field.
It takes approximately seven to 10 years total to become a nurse anesthetist (CRNA), which includes education to become a registered nurse (RN), experience working as an RN in an intensive care unit (ICU) and attending and graduating from an accredited nurse anesthesia program.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Facing surgery or an invasive procedure can be stressful. Know that your nurse anesthetist (CRNA) has specialized knowledge and skills to make sure you’re safe during your surgery. Don’t be afraid to ask your CRNA questions. They’re available to help you feel more comfortable and confident about your surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/17/2022.
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