Working in nearly every corner of the hospital, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) support patients of all ages, and aid in virtually all aspects of care.
Recognizing their service, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) will commemorate National CRNA Week, Jan. 23-27, by providing information about their profession, and answering questions to those who may be interested in a career in the field.
CRNAs are registered nurses specializing in anesthesia, as opposed to anesthesiologists, who are doctors specializing in anesthesia, said Lt. Cmdr. Allecia Webster, a CRNA who works in WRNMMC's Department of Anesthesiology.
"We're independent practitioners. If we see [a patient's] blood pressure going down we can give them the medication they need," she explained. She added, "We work very well together. We're very collaborative and it's a setting that I really enjoy."
At WRNMMC, there are a total of roughly 35 CRNAs who work in all operating rooms, as well as remote operating rooms throughout the hospital, such as in Urology, Pediatrics, the Breast Clinic, and Gastroenterology, she said. Additionally, CRNAs are involved in the pre-screening and post-screening processes.
When asked what she finds most rewarding about her job, she said serving wounded warriors.
"What an honor it is to take care of them," she said. "They are very special to us, because they're 'us,' [active duty military]. That could be me."
She also enjoys being a part of a team that helps patients on their path to recovery. She said, "[It's rewarding] interacting with patients and knowing you have a small piece in their ability to get better, because they're having surgery and you're providing the anesthesia."
Lt. Col. Danette Cruthirds, also a CRNA at WRNMMC, shared the same sentiment.
"It's a wonderful profession that we get to work in because we get to work with a variety of patients, OB, pediatrics, wounded warriors. We're all very professional, caring individuals, and it's a good collaborative effort between us, the anesthesiologists, the surgeons, the operating room nurses. I hope that comes across when we take care of our patients," said Cruthirds.
She appreciates the opportunity to serve wounded warriors as well, given the sacrifices they have made, she said.
Cruthirds added there are millions of CRNAs nationwide, and it's important to educate staff on their role in patient care. "With any profession, you want to make sure people are knowledgeable and understanding what their expectations are as well so they know what we're capable of [providing]," she said.
After earning a bachelor's degree in nursing, CRNAs go on to earn 1-2 years of critical experience; they then go to CRNA school, such as the one at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), said Webster. In the military, CRNAs work autonomously, whereas in civilian hospitals, they work closely under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, she added.
Monday through Friday, Jan. 23-26, CRNAs will be available to answer questions on Main Street between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Webster said. Additionally, on Tuesday and Thursday, they will be in the America building near the corridor to the parking garage, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information about CRNAs, or choosing a career as a CRNA, contact Lt. Col. Cruthirds at 301-295-4455, ext. 156, or e-mail her at danette.cruthirdsmed.navy.mil.