School of Nursing Helping Fill Shortage of Nurse Anesthetists
In the past few years, the University of Maryland School of Nursing has taken clear aim at a critical shortage of certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA).
Still, despite an average annual $164,000 salary, $174,000 in rural areas, only about half of a 20 percent shortage announced by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) in 2002 has been met, says Lou Heindel, DNP, CRNA, assistant professor at the school.
The School of Nursing enrolled its first nurse anesthesia students in fall 2004 in response to the shortage in Maryland. Since the inaugural class graduated in December 2006, more than 80 nurses have completed the program and become CRNAs.
"Our program prepares students to administer all types of anesthesia to a diverse diagnostic and surgical population," says Heindel, who is the director of the school's 28-month master's degree program for CRNA.
CRNAs administer approximately 32 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States, according to the AANA's 2008 Practice Profile Survey.
Heindel recently held a week-long demonstration at the school of the extensive duties of CRNA's. "This special week allows us to showcase not only the work of nurse anesthetists, but also the School's program and the work of our graduates.
CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia are delivered, and have been the main providers of anesthesia care to combat troops since WWI, including the conflict in Iraq.
CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural America, enabling healthcare facilities in these medically underserved areas to offer obstetrical, surgical, and trauma stabilization services. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100 percent of the rural hospitals.
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 their physician counterparts.
Nurse anesthetists provide all types of anesthesia care, providing more than half of the anesthetics in the country. "Probably more than 65 percent of the anesthetics in the country are given by nurses. In every hospital, every state throughout the country," said Heindel. They are responsible for conducting preoperative evaluations, interviewing the patient, and discussing the anesthetic care of the patient, managing their airway, monitoring and adjusting the anesthetic, waking up the patient, transporting them to the recovery room and managing pain medication after surgery. "Nurses provide anesthesia for all types of surgical procedures in all types of setting," said Heindel.
The University of Maryland School of Nursing was ranked 7th on the list of top nursing schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report in 2009. ýIt is one of six professional schools at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
The AANA reports that the University of Maryland School of Nursing is one of 109 education programs in the United States with accredited nurse anesthesia educational programs which graduated 2,228 students from nurse anesthesia school in 2009. In the 2002, there were only 85 accredited programs, which graduated 1,333 students.