These days we almost exclusively think of anesthesiologists as the medical professionals responsible for administering pain relief in hospital settings. Prior to 1937, however, nurses were most commonly charged with the task of managing a patient’s pain during medical procedures.
In recent years, the nurse anesthesiologist position has one again been on the rise due to lack of doctors specializing in anesthesia. In the U.S. there are currently more than 28,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs). Nurse anesthesiologists are nurses who have taken additional training required to also perform the duties of an anesthesiologist. It is a large amount of responsibility as the nurse anesthesiologist is involved in so many aspects of a hospital patient’s care.
Anesthesia can be a frightening prospect for many patients. Just as with receiving anesthesia from an anesthesiologist, there are possible threats to be aware of. Some of the serious risks include nerve damage, paralysis, heart arrhythmia, stroke, seizures and death.
A couple of the many responsibilities of a CRNA, when acting as both nurse and anesthetist, are obtaining a patient’s medical history before surgery (including past reactions to drugs), and obtaining precise height and weight information. Many patients find that having a CRNA responsible for them settles some of their nerves because he/she is able to thoroughly explain the anesthesia procedure while still performing the care duties of a nurse. The CRNA spends a great deal of time with a patient and that can also create a level of comfort that may not happen otherwise. She/he is often with the patient before, during and after the procedure, not leaving until the patient is past the anesthetic effects.
The information that is gathered ahead of the procedure is important to preventing an overdose of medication; the CRNA must use these details to determine the appropriate amount and duration of medication for the patient’s size and length of procedure. Of course miscalculation is not the only potential threat. Errors can also occur during monitoring of the patient for general anesthetic procedures, or during administering of the medication for local and regional anesthetic.
CRNAs practice in many situations including: regular surgeries, cosmetic surgeries, child births, dental surgeries, etc. As previously discussed, there are some great benefits to being under the care of a CRNA, but, as with any medical treatment, accidents can happen. The list of responsibilities for a nurse anesthesiologist in any given medical setting is vast and perhaps contributes to anesthesia errors that occur. About 19 percent of all nurse mistake cases involve nurse anesthetists.
While most patients come through anesthesia just fine, there are circumstances where something goes wrong. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed during a procedure that involved anesthesia and you feel the harm was due to negligence on the part of the CRNA you should contact an experienced nursing malpractice lawyer. We have an extensive background in medical malpractice cases and can provide you will a free case assessment.