National Nurse Anesthetist Week celebrates the best kept secret in nursing

If you’ve ever had surgery, an MRI, or a Cesarean section, you’ve probably encountered one of Scott & White’s certified registered nurse anesthetists without even knowing it.

Scott & White staff CRNA, Pamela Chambers said nurse anesthetists are the best kept secret in nursing.

“Most people don’t know what CRNAs are until they actually have to encounter one,” she said.

In honor of National Nurse Anesthetist Week (Jan. 22 through 28), Ms. Chambers explains what a CRNA does and how they contribute to the overall well-being of their patients.

What is a CRNA?

CRNAs are anesthesia professionals who safely administer more than 32 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.c

“They provide anesthesia for all of the operative or diagnostic procedures that a patient could possibly need,” Ms. Chambers said.


Nurse anesthetists have also been one of the main providers of anesthesia care to U.S. military personnel on the front lines since WWI, including current conflicts in the Middle East.

“In fact, here at Scott & White Hospital – Temple and Children’s Hospital Scott & White, many of our CRNAs are veterans of the U.S. armed forces,” Ms. Chambers said.

What is the difference between a CRNA and an anesthesiologist?

The most substantial difference between CRNAs and anesthesiologists is their prior education. Anesthesiologists receive a medical education and are physicians, while CRNAs receive a nursing education and are advanced practice nurses.

“However, much of the anesthesia part of the education is very similar for both providers,” she said. “They are both educated to use the same anesthesia process in the provision of anesthesia and related services, and adhere to the same standards of patient care.”

At Scott & White anesthesiologists can also lead anesthesia care teams, which means he or she will supervise qualified non-physician anesthesia providers, like nurse anesthetists, to monitor patients and provide anesthesia care, while still retaining overall responsibility for the patient.1

Why is it important to honor CRNAs?

“Anesthesia is the oldest nursing specialty, and it actually makes life better for everybody,” Ms. Chambers said. “Patients can access critical healthcare that used to be impossible to imagine before anesthesia was widely used.”

CRNAs are dedicated to making sure that you have a safe and comfortable experience when they come to the hospital, she said.

“So, if you see a CRNA during National Nurse Anesthetist week, just say hi and maybe ask them what they do,” Ms. Chambers said. “We’d be happy to explain it.”

For information on nurse anesthetists, visit aana.com.

Have you ever encountered a nurse anesthetist? How did he or she make your experience more comfortable?


1                      American Society of Anesthesiologists; Anesthesia Care Team

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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National Nurse Anesthetist Week celebrates the best kept secret in nursing