Newswise — PARK RIDGE, Illinois—For patients undergoing surgery, having a baby, or needing emergency treatment following a traumatic incident, odds are the hands-on anesthesia care essential to their comfort and safety will be provided by a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). In recognition of the 20th annual National CRNA Week Jan. 20-26, 2019, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) wants to let anesthesia patients in on a few lesser known facts about the 53,000 nurse anesthetists who safely deliver more than 45 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States.  

History: Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia care to patients in the United States for more than 150 years. The first anesthesia provided by nurses was on the battlefields of the American Civil War. 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.

Access to Care: CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered—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. They are the primary providers of anesthesia care in rural America, enabling healthcare facilities in these medically underserved areas to offer obstetrical, surgical, pain management and trauma stabilization services. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100 percent of the rural hospitals.

Anesthesia Safety: According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine, anesthesia care is nearly 50 times safer than it was in the early 1980s. Numerous outcomes studies have demonstrated that there is no difference in the quality of care provided by CRNAs and anesthesiologists.

Cost-Efficiency: The cost-efficiency of CRNAs helps control escalating healthcare costs. A landmark 2016 study published in Nursing Economic$ shows that a CRNA working as the sole anesthesia provider is at least 25 percent more cost-effective than any anesthesia delivery model involving an anesthesiologist.

Education: The minimum education and experience required to become a CRNA equals 7-8 ½ years resulting in a master’s or doctoral degree. Graduates of nurse anesthesia educational programs attain an average of 9,369 hours of clinical experience. There are currently 121 accredited nurse anesthesia educational programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. While a minimum of one year of acute-care nursing experience is required to enter a nurse anesthesia educational program, the average amount of experience prior to entry is 2.9 years.

About the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

Founded in 1931 and located in Park Ridge, Ill., and Washington, D.C., the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is the professional organization representing 53,000 CRNAs and student registered nurse anesthetists across the United States. For more information, visit and