Training Alongside Nurse Anesthetists

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I’m fortunate to do my anesthesiology residency training at a program which also has one of the best student registered nurse anesthetist (SRNA) training programs in the country. As a result, residents often work alongside SRNAs as we learn our respective trades.

Our super awesome advanced airway cart
Our super awesome advanced airway cart

I’m willing to bet that if one were to ask physician anesthesiologists about their opinions regarding nurse anesthetists, many would be frustrated, disgruntled or even hostile. Why? Nurse anesthetists are constantly lobbying for more and more autonomy – especially to practice independently without the supervision of a licensed physician. They claim their anesthetics are just as safe but at a cheaper price point than physician services. Physicians counter this by citing the extensive training and clinical hours inherent to becoming a doctor; this translates to saving lives “when seconds count” (as the ASA tagline goes).

I suppose a part of me feels less threatened by the growing tiers of anesthesia providers since I’ll be pursuing fellowships, but for me, this debate is very simple. Nurse anesthetists are here to stay. As resident physicians just beginning our career as anesthesiologists, it’s advantageous to be collegial and actively take part in helping train them as well. For example, when we’re the senior residents on various call shifts, we oversee cases performed by more junior residents and SRNAs. Yes, there is certainly a different foundation of understanding between the two, but skills I can teach anyone might benefit a patient weeks, months, or even years from now. That’s the single most important thing for me to achieve.

We can argue endlessly about outcomes, but at the end of the day, in a large academic institution dedicated to training the future of healthcare in all disciplines, it’s our job to foster an environment of learning instead of animosity. 🙂

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