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The first priority of the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) is to promote patient safety. The NBCRNA’s board members and staff - experts in the fields of anesthesia, surgery, training/education and testing – fulfill this mission by ensuring that nurse anesthetists meet rigorous standards to earn and maintain their certification.  As a result, nurse anesthetists have a remarkable track record for safe practice. The NBCRNA understands and embraces the wisdom in the requirement of our accrediting bodies that we include on our board of directors a person who gives us the perspective of the public in our deliberations. This voting public member serves as a sounding board for how the public in general and public organizations collectively view the NBCRNA’s responsibility to patient safety and our commitment to decisions and processes that protect the public. Read more about the patient’s persp​ective of the NBCRNA in this post by the board’s current public member.


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What is a nurse anesthetist?
Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice, highly educated nurses who are licensed to provide anesthesia for the full range of surgical and medical procedures. The profession began during the Civil War when nurses administered anesthesia to injured soldiers. Today, over 40,000 professionals hold the nurse anesthetist certification in the United States and practice in every type of setting requiring anesthesia, from delivery rooms and dental offices to operating rooms and outpatient surgical centers.

How does NBCRNA protect patient safety?
The NBCRNA regulates certification and recertification of nurse anesthetists and works in conjunction with the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, which establishes practice standards, and the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, which establishes standards for educational programs. Individuals who earn at least a Master’s Degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program must then undergo a rigorous entry process and pass the NBCRNA’s National Certification Examination before earning their certification. The exam is an intense, comprehensive test of the knowledge required to safely administer anesthesia. Once certified, nurse anesthetists dedicate themselves to lifelong learning through NBCRNA’s recertification process, a robust and regular assessment of nurse anesthetists’ professional practices.

How is a nurse anesthetist different from a physician anesthesiologist?
Both professionals are validated experts in delivering anesthesia care. Physicians undergo a very broad-based education which includes obstetrics, histology, radiology, urology, and other areas before they undertake specialized residency training in the field of anesthesiology. Nurse anesthetists follow a more direct pathway. After four years of collegiate nursing education, nurses must gain at least one year of experience in an acute patient care setting, such as the intensive care unit. Nurse anesthesia education then involves 2-3 years of graduate study, resulting in either a Master's or a Doctoral degree to become a graduate nurse anesthetist. It requires approximately eight years to educate a nurse anesthetist.

What exactly does  NBCRNA certify nurses to do?
The types of procedures and care nurses provide is determined by law in each state. In addition, a nurse anesthetist's specific duties are determined by the hospital or group that employs them. Certification by the NBCRNA ensures that a nurse anesthetist has been educated and has experience in every type of anesthesia care, from anesthetizing newborns to the elderly, for procedures involving the brain to the bones, and from life-saving trauma care to life-giving obstetric deliveries.

What is the advantage of having nurses provide anesthesia care?
Anesthesia care is perfectly suited to be given by nurses. Nurses, by nature, bring a special compassion to care they provide, and they understand having surgery can be a very frightening event in one’s life. If you are undergoing surgery, you can rest assured, that the compassionate nurse who holds your hand is also certified by the NBCRNA to possess the knowledge and skill to provide a safe and effective anesthesia experience. Their expertise in providing anesthesia is demonstrated by their CRNA certification by the NBCRNA. Ask your nurse anesthetist if they hold the CRNA certification.

What lies in the future for NBCRNA?

The NBCRNA regularly assesses the evolving knowledge required in anesthesia health care practice to ensure our certification and recertification programs meet or exceed the expectations of patients and their family members. In 2012, after extensive research of recertification best practices and an open dialogue with the nurse anesthetist community, NBCRNA announced the Continuing Professional Certification (CPC) program. The CPC program, to take effect in 2016, will reshape the nurse anesthetist recertification process in a way that further strengthens the NBCRNA’s ability to protect patient safety.

You can read more about the CPC program HERE. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​