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Merritt Hawkins and Staff Care Honor Nurse Anesthetists During CRNA Week

January 23, 2021

CRNA Week 2021

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Administering anesthesia to millions of people each year, certified registered nurse anesthetists are celebrating CRNA Week 2021, which takes place January 24-30. This year’s theme, “Experts you trust. Care you can count on,” calls attention to the safe, quality care provided by thousands of nurse anesthetists practicing in the United States.

Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading permanent placement agency for physicians and advanced practitioners, and Staff Care, their locum tenens staffing partner, are pleased to honor CRNAs during this national week of celebration.

“Being a CRNA is a challenging job, and it’s very rewarding to help people through vulnerable times in their lives,” said Mark Swenson, a CRNA at an ambulatory surgery center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a traveler with Staff Care. “We deliver good care, and do a lot of critical thinking and trouble shooting.”

Shaun Rudi, CRNA, based in Florida and on assignment with Staff Care, said he enjoys establishing a rapport and “connecting with my patients” during pre-op and administering the analgesia.

“It’s our job to mitigate the fear,” Rudi said. “I like how collaborative anesthesia is with other facets of the surgical team.”

A history of nurse anesthesia care

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) reports nurses began providing anesthesia more than a century ago, dating back to the Civil War. Charles Mayo, MD, co-founder of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, dubbed Alice Magaw, a nurse anesthetist at the clinic, the “Mother of Anesthesia.” She safely delivered 14,000 anesthetics without any of her Mayo patients dying.

Certification of nurse anesthetists began in 1956, according to AANA.

CRNAs deliver anesthesia in hospitals, surgery and endoscopy centers, and specialty physician offices. Many belong to a group practice. CRNAs also practice in the military.

“Anesthesia is a dynamic time physiologically, so you have to critically think in a fast-paced and critical environment,” Swenson said.

In many states, CRNAs practice with physician supervision, but AANA reports 19 states have opted out of the federal physician-supervision requirement. Many CRNAs prefer to practice in states without the supervision.

Matthew Nichols, senior director of recruiting at AMN Leadership Solutions, Merritt Hawkins, explained that some CRNAs prefer placements in rural communities offering greater autonomy.

CRNA jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic

At the start of the pandemic, hospitals cancelled elective surgeries and furloughed CRNAs for several weeks. Merritt Hawkins was able to place some of those CRNAs in other positions, Nichols said.

Swenson and Rudi were both furloughed and are now back to handling anesthesia on surgical cases. Rudi traveled to Boston, at the time a COVID-19 hot spot, providing anesthesia care in surgical cases.

Other CRNAs were reassigned to intensive care units to help with managing the onslaught of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

As facilities gear up to overcome delays in elective procedures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse anesthetists remain essential in helping patients receive needed care, and jobs are plentiful.

“Demand has gone up significantly,” Nichols said. “In the last month or so, people have a brighter outlook with the vaccine coming and a relaxation of the lockdown.”

Merritt Hawkins offers a variety of CRNA job opportunities. Employers pay any fees associated with a placement; CRNAs should never have to pay.

“We have expertise about the specialty and what our employers are looking for,” Nichols said.

Although opportunities for full-time CRNA positions exist throughout the country, Nichols said most CRNAs, typically, do not want to move great distances, preferring to stay in familiar communities or regions. 

“We’re seeing a surge of requests for recruitment,” Nichols said. “[CRNAs] are hugely in demand.”

Increased demand creates opportunities

A strong need for CRNAs creates opportunities for these advanced practice nurses, including permanent and locum tenens positions.

“It’s nice to have some supplemental income, and it’s also nice to go to other places and see what techniques and medications are being used,” said Swenson, explaining that it always beneficial to practice in a facility with a case mix different than at his full-time job. “It’s good to talk with other CRNAs in a different facility, a different city or state. The networking and getting to know people is fun.”  

Swenson also praised Staff Care’s ability to find him the locations and case mix he wants.

Rudi, who has been traveling for four years, added that “every place has its own vibe or flow. CRNA locums have to be flexible and be ready to change gears.”

“You never know what your day is going to be like as a locums,” Rudi said. “It’s interesting.”

Rudi added that traveling as a locum tenens CRNA has offered opportunities to live in places he would like to explore.

“You live in a place and get to know the really good places,” said Rudi. “It’s a longer version than a vacation.”

MERRITT HAWKINS has career opportunities for physicians, CRNAs and other advanced practitioners throughout the U.S.




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