Honoring Heroes of Healthcare: National CRNA Week

To honor these advanced practice nurses, the last week of January marks CRNA Week. This awareness campaign spotlights the critical role Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists play in providing safe anesthesia care and pain management for surgery patients nationwide.

By highlighting the rigorous medical training CRNAs undergo and the value their skills bring to the healthcare system, CRNA Week educates the public on a profession that keeps patients comfortable and stable during life-saving medical procedures.

History and Origins of CRNA Week

Originally founded in 2000, this national awareness week started with a different name: National Nurse Anesthetist Week. However as the official CRNA credential and title gained more widespread recognition, organizers updated the name in 2014 to National CRNA Week.
Over the past two decades, CRNA Week has served several key goals:
  • Highlight the CRNA credential and the 59,000+ practicing nurses across America who have earned it
  • Show appreciation for the critical anesthesia care CRNAs provide before, during, and after surgery
  • Educate healthcare administrators and policymakers on CRNAs’ advanced expertise in administering safe, high-quality anesthesia
  • Recognize the rigor of CRNA medical training, which can involve up to 8-10 years of education

By focusing a week every year to national recognizing CRNAs through media campaigns, hospital events, association awards, and more, CRNA Week organizers saw an opportunity to honor these unsung heroes working tirelessly behind the scenes in surgical units across the country. The week offers a chance to celebrate their life-saving work.

Pioneers in Nurse Anesthesia

Alice Magaw - “Mother of Anesthesia”

Alice Magaw earned the title “Mother of Anesthesia” for good reason. As the lead anesthetist for the Mayo Clinic doctors back in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, she single-handedly delivered around 14,000 anesthetics. If that doesn’t impress you, not a single patient died under her care.

Her stellar safety record and groundbreaking published research made clear that nurses deserved a key role in driving anesthesia forward as a science and practice.

Agnes McGee - Award-Winning Educator

When it came to improved teaching and training around anesthesia in nursing education, Agnes McGee led the way.

An award-winning nurse anesthetist in 1900s Oregon, her advancing of critical protocols and standards at Oregon Health Science Center allowed future generations of nurses to provide top-notch anesthesia services for patients time after time.

In 1953, McGee’s contributions were honored when she received AANA’s Award of Appreciation for her advancements in the field of nurse anesthesia.

Agatha Hodgins - Pioneer in Nitrous Oxide Anesthesia

Working hand-in-hand with the famed surgeon Dr. George Crile, Agatha Hodgins honed monster expertise in using nitrous oxide for anesthesia. She went overseas to share what she learned during World War I and decided to open up America’s first nurse anesthesia school when back home in 1915 called Lakeside School of Anesthesia.

These pioneering nurses displayed expertise, leadership, and commitment to education that formed the foundation of anesthesiology nursing practice for decades to come. Their innovations, research, and focus on safety set the standard for CRNAs today.

Evolution of CRNA Role Over Time

CRNAs have come a long way since the early days of nurse anesthesia. Back then, nurses delivered most surgical anesthetics without much formal training. However visionary nurses saw an opportunity to increase expertise and specialization.
Key developments that boosted the CRNA profession include:
  • 1909- The first nurse anesthesia training launched in Portland, paving the way for standardized education.
  • 1980s- Professional associations publish the first national standards for anesthesia competency and practice.
  • 1952- Standardized certification exams were introduced to formally recognize specialized skills.
  • 20th century- Continuing education requirements ensure nurses stay updated on the latest techniques.
  • Present times- CRNA programs shifted to the graduate level, with nurses obtaining Master’s or Doctorates.

These days CRNAs undergo a minimum of 7-10 years of medical training to provide safe anesthesia, working closely with surgical teams. They leverage knowledge across areas like physiology, pharmacology, and biochemistry– all to keep patients properly sedated, and comfortable and stabilize bodily functions during invasive procedures.

The evolution shows amazing growth into a well-educated, highly capable profession making lifesaving patient care possible.

CRNAs Today - Vital Role

CRNAs make up the largest group of anesthesia professionals in the U.S. rural counties today. Especially for underserved communities, they play an irreplaceable role in delivering safe anesthetics.
Some facts about today’s anesthesia landscape:
  • 80% of all anesthesia in rural hospitals is administered by CRNAs
  • 32-33 million anesthetics are given by CRNAs per year
  • Expertise across all specialties – surgery, obstetrics, neurology, pediatrics, trauma, and more
  • Advanced patient assessment skills to identify complications
  • Can stabilize airways and manage trauma cases when quick action is needed
From scheduled procedures in general practice clinics to emergency response teams to military medical units deployed overseas, CRNAs’ expertise enables treatment that simply would not happen otherwise.

CRNAs: At the Heart of Patient Care

The advanced expertise CRNAs bring to their life-sustaining work makes them wholly deserving of honor and appreciation– during CRNA Week and all year long. Their medical preparation, mastery of complex anesthesia, stellar safety record, and care for vulnerable patients sets them apart as invaluable.

At Total Nurses Network, we see these professionals’ critical impact up close. Our mission is to ensure that all hospitals and medical facilities have enough world-class nursing talent to keep communities healthy.

That’s why we’re proud to support the CRNA profession and national awareness campaigns like CRNA Week. It celebrates nurses excelling in this highly demanding specialty. Empowering them means better care access for Americans everywhere.

Want to join the celebration of nursing excellence? Visit our website to explore open anesthesia and OR nurse positions with Chicago’s premier healthcare employers.