Celebrating National Nurse Anesthetists Week, by Dr. Susan McMullan

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Susan McMullan, PhD, CRNA

Each January, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), a professional association representing more than 53,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), celebrates National Nurse Anesthetists Week. National CRNA Week is the AANA’s annual celebration of anesthesia patient safety, CRNAs and student registered nurse anesthetists who safely and cost-effectively provide anesthetics each year.

The week is also an opportunity for patients, hospital administrators, health care professionals and others to familiarize themselves with the advanced practice registered nurses who have earned the CRNA credential.

CRNAs have been in practice for more than 150 years and now provide more than 45 million safe anesthetics each year in the U.S. Additionally, CRNAs are the primary providers of anesthetics, delivering almost 100 percent of anesthesia care in rural areas, thereby providing access to care for the medically underserved. CRNAs provide anesthesia in collaboration with surgeons, dentists, podiatrists, anesthesiologists and other qualified healthcare professionals. CRNAs also practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered, including traditional hospital surgical suites and obstetrical delivery rooms; critical access hospitals; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and pain management specialists; and U.S. military, public health services and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.

Nurses first provided anesthesia on the battlefields of the American Civil War, and during WWI, nurse anesthetists became the predominant providers of anesthesia care to wounded soldiers on the front lines. Today, 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.

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UAB School of Nursing Nurse Anesthesia students pose for a photo with Society of Opioid Free Anesthesia (SOFA) President Tom Baribeault, MSN, CRNA (front row, third from left) at an event in UAB School of Nursing.

In addition to providing anesthesia services, CRNAs are at the forefront of the opioid crisis, helping to provide policy and protocol to reduce the amount of opioid medications patients receive. In November, 75 UAB Nurse Anesthesia doctoral students participated in the inaugural Society for Opioid -Free Anesthesia (SOFA) Meeting held at the UAB School of Nursing. During the meeting, students learned about leading edge approaches to the pathophysiology of pain. Important topics included providing pain relief via multimodal approaches, which thereby reduce and/or eliminate the exposure to opioids, as well as implementation of new perioperative protocols such as Enhanced Recovery After Anesthesia. Also known as ERAS, this is a multimodal and multidisciplinary approach to postoperative care which reduces the stress response and promotes pre-procedure organ function.

Stay tuned for more news about these emerging trends in evidence-based perioperative care, as UAB School of Nursing and its graduates remain on the front lines of providing quality health care and expanding access to care.

For more information about National Nurse Anesthetists Week, visit the AANA website at aana.com/membership/national-crna-week.

Susan McMullan, PhD, CRNA, has been a Nurse Anesthetist for more than 30 years. She has clinical experience in all forms of anesthesia, with a focus on pediatric and cardiovascular anesthesia and is an Associate Professor the BSN-DNP Pathway in Nurse Anesthesia Coordinator. UAB School of Nursing’s Post-BSN to DNP Pathway for Nurse Anesthesia is clinically focused to prepare students for the full scope of nurse anesthesia practice. The 2017 class had 100 percent employment within three months of graduating and had a 100 percent first time pass rate for the NBCRNA Certification.



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