EL PASO, Texas — If you're having surgery at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, having a baby or some other procedure that requires anesthesia there, chances are you could be getting put under by a nurse anesthetist.
Beaumont has about 30 certified registered nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, who have graduate-level training (master's degree or above) and perform anesthesia in every practice setting in which one can do anesthesia, said Capt. Rob Summers, a CRNA and the education coordinator for the Anesthesia Department at Beaumont.
At Beaumont, these specially trained nurses do anesthesia for general surgeries, outpatient procedures like colonoscopies, labor and deliveries, and vascular and heart procedures. And they are on call for trauma cases. They can also be deployed if they are military.
"Most people, when I go bedside, they call me doctor, because I'm a man," Summers said. "They assume I'm an anesthesiologist, and I have to say, 'I'm a nurse anesthetist."
The hospital will acknowledge national Nurse Anesthetist Week from Sunday through Jan. 25 and will educate the public about the profession, Summers said.
Nurse anesthetists perform about 34 million anesthesia procedures across the United States each year, Summers added.
This type of nurse has been around for about 150 years, said Capt. Jason Brzuchalski, a student registered nurse anesthetist who is doing his residency at Beaumont and finishing up his doctorate degree through the U.S. Army Graduate Program in Anesthesia Nursing.
The Army's program in anesthesia nursing was ranked No. 1 among all similar programs across the United States by U.S. News and World Report in 2011.
Nurse anesthetists have nearly the same amount of education and real-world experience as doctors specializing in anesthesia and are held to the same standards, Brzuchalski said.
Anesthesia nursing programs are also trying to phase out master's degrees and are moving toward requiring all new members of the profession to have a doctorate by 2025, Brzuchalski added.
"We want to let the public know that your anesthesia provider could very well be a certified registered nurse anesthetist and we provide the same quality of care and are held to the same standard as anesthesiologists," Brzuchalski said.
With 32 million more people joining the health care system because of the Affordable Care Act, these nurses will help to fill the gap, Summers said.
They are also required to be board certified, do 40 hours of continuing education every two years and use current research to guide their practices, Summers said.