Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Specialty Overview: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

By Cheryl Spulecki, DNAP, RN, CRNA, ACNP, FAANA

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program prepares students for a comprehensive nurse practitioner role that includes critical thinking and independent decision-making in clinical practice, leadership, education, policy and consultation. 

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program prepares students for a comprehensive nurse practitioner role that includes critical thinking and independent decision-making in clinical practice, leadership, education, policy and consultation.

An increasingly complex health care environment and a nationwide shortage of primary care providers mean that nurse practitioners – especially doctorate-prepared nurse practitioners – are in high demand. DNPs have an important role in patient and profession advocacy and are vital for improving community health and patient outcomes.

The many DNP specialties empower nurses to help populations and solve problems they are passionate about. One of those specialties is the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia for surgery or other medical procedures.

Below, our Nurse Anesthetist Program Director Cheryl Spulecki, DNAP, RN, CRNA, ACNP, FAANA, provides an overview of the specialty and discusses a common misconception about CRNAs. 

Patient Populations

CRNAs work with anyone needing anesthesia services from pediatrics, obstetrics, seniors and everyone in between. This includes all types of anesthesia services such as general and regional anesthesia, sedation and pain management (epidural, spinal and peripheral nerve blocks).

Practice Settings

Nurse anesthetists offer our services in hospitals, surgery centers and some dental offices. I work with patients needing anesthesia for ophthalmic, plastic, genitourinary, ophthalmic and gynecological procedures.

NYS Required Certification

CRNAs are board-certified providers with master’s or doctoral degrees in nursing practice with a specialty in nurse anesthesia/anesthesiology. An RN license is required for some CRNAs who are also licensed as Acute Care Nurse Practitioners.

Where do you currently practice, and what does a typical practice day look like for you?

I currently practice at two ambulatory surgery centers. A typical day starts between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. My day includes completing safety checks on anesthesia machines, equipment and monitors. This is followed by preparation of medication necessary for the induction and maintenance of anesthesia. I then introduce myself to the patient assigned to the operating room and the surgeon that I am working with and complete a pre-operative exam, similar to a history and physical. Consents are then signed and/or confirmed with a full explanation of the determined anesthesia. After that, the patient is taken into the operating room for anesthesia induction and surgery. The patient is then transported to the recovery room, where I hand off the patient to skilled recovery room RNs to monitor and prepare the patient for discharge. I check on the patient again before they leave the facility to make sure they are comfortable and stable. This process occurs multiple times during the day until the surgery schedule is complete or I am relieved of my duties.  

Autonomy in NYS

I have the autonomy to care for patients’ anesthesia needs under the supervision of a physician, which includes a surgeon. I use my skills as a DNP-prepared CRNA to provide evidence-based care and the best outcomes for my patients. I collaborate with the surgeon and/or anesthesiologist throughout the day to provide the best anesthetic I am capable of.

A Common Misconception about CRNAs

A common misconception of my specialty is that CRNAs are assistants or technicians. In reality, CRNAs provide all anesthesia services with minimal direction. This includes interviewing patients, administering anesthesia, providing pain relief and discharging patients. The critical care knowledge we receive in our advanced practice registered nurse anesthesia training and previous ICU experience prepares us for our specialty. We provide care and advocacy for our patients as they are rendered vulnerable under anesthesia and are their voice in maintaining a safe secure environment.

Interested in becoming a doctorate-prepared family nurse practitioner?

Our Post-BS to DNP Program CRNA specialty develops advanced practice nurses who can deliver compassionate primary care to all adults, from young adults to seniors. Visit our Post-BS to DNP program page to learn more.

Published January 24, 2023