A fellow writer and good friend of mine is a CRNA– certified registered nurse anesthetist. That means she was first an RN and then specialized in anesthesia. Kim works in a rural setting delivering primary anesthesia care covering thousands of patients. If it weren’t for CRNA’s like Kim, people living in rural communities would likely have to travel hours (or be transferred by EMS services very expensively) for even minor procedures.
Kim put out a call on her FB page for questions about anesthesia that I thought would be good info for Redwood’s readers.
Welcome back, Kim!
Let’s start with the boring stuff:
1. Why do I have to answer so many questions before surgery?
One common misconception about anesthesia is that we just give you some magic drug that makes you sleep for as long as surgery takes. It actually is a lot of different drugs that work in different ways and that your body metabolizes in different ways. Some drugs last different amounts of time. Some drugs depress the heart or aren’t good for people with lung problems. We ask all those questions so that we can give you the best anesthetic for you! And that’s another thing–we don’t really care or judge you about things you do or don’t do. We just want to take the best care of you so don’t lie to your CRNA! If you have had something to eat or drink, taken a medication, or if you drink, smoke or use drugs, tell us! It could be life or death!
2. I thought only doctors gave anesthetics. What is the difference between a CRNA and an anesthesiologist?
Nurses were the first anesthesia providers and have been safely providing anesthesia since the late 1800’s. We were the first Advanced Practice Nurses and have the most autonomy of any nursing specialty. CRNAs provide anesthesia in all 50 states and our military men and women are cared for by CRNAs around the world. Over 60% of all anesthetics are given by CRNAs. The main difference is where our training begins. A CRNA goes to nursing school, works as an RN in Critical Care and then completes both clinical and didactic training in anesthesia to become a CRNA after passing boards. An anesthesiologist goes to medical school and then completes a residency with clinical training in anesthesia. Often the cases and textbooks used are the same and many large teaching hospitals train both CRNAs and their doctor counterparts side by side. Over and over studies have shown no difference in safety and outcomes between CRNAs and MDs, so no, you don’t have to be a doctor to do anesthesia.
Now for the more interesting stuff!
3. Where do you go while I’m asleep?
Nowhere! We monitor you heart beat by heart beat and breath by breath to make sure you are getting exactly the amount of anesthesia that you need. Our only job is to take care of you during surgery! We don’t leave you from the time you come into surgery until we take you to recovery. And, we don’t leave you in the good hands of the recovery nurse unless you are stable. We are your advocate, asleep or awake!
We’ll continue with Part II next post.
Kim Zweygardt always knew she wanted to be someone special. Her heart’s desire when she was 7 was to be a famous ballerina but when she read their toes bled from dancing on them, it became a less desirable career choice. Then Kim decided to be a famous lawyer solving mysteries and capturing the bad guys just like Perry Mason, but as she got older she discovered sometimes it was hard to tell just who the bad guys were.
Instead Kim chose a career in medicine practicing the art and science of anesthesia as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist in rural Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.
Kim is married to Kary, the man of her dreams, who has done a fabulous job of making all her dreams come true. They have three children but an empty nest and enjoy conversation with friends over good coffee and great food. They enjoy travel, the arts and taking a nap.