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Difference between Anaesthesiologist and CRNA


In the United States it is common for anesthesiologists and CRNA personals to work together as a team in patient care management during and after surgery. So the question does arise whether they are the same and can they be replaced by each other.

There are certain important differences between these two professionals regarding their role in the medical team.

Anesthesiologist – Scope and role

An anesthesiologist is a very important member of the surgical team in every major or minor surgery. He is a physician who has specialized in the art and science of administering anesthesia to the patient prior to surgery. A patient may require local, epidural, regional or general anesthesia depending on the surgery being performed. The type of anesthesia required is decided by the chief surgeon who carries out the procedure.

An anesthesiologist is a physician who has done his graduation in the field of medicine followed by compulsory internship. He then goes on to do a master’s degree in anesthesia which is of 4 years. He is board certified which means he has passed both oral and theory exam. So an average an anesthesiologist has an experience of 8 years of postgraduate studies and patient handling. He has the in depth knowledge of all the possible medical and surgical complications that may occur to a patient during surgery. His intense training and experience gives him the ability to handle any critical case and take important decisions regarding the dose of anesthesia. Depending on the preoperative medical and physical condition of the patient he can take a call as to whether the patient can withstand the anesthesia or not. The anesthesiologist is also responsible for deciding the dosage depending on the age of the patient. He is supposed to monitor the blood pressure and other vital signs of the patient throughout surgery and intimate the surgeon in case of any deterioration.

In outpatient surgeries like cosmetic surgeries also surgeons prefer to have anesthesiologist by their side as they do not have the emergency backup of a hospital. So they rely on the judgment of the physician trained in the field of anesthesia.

A CRNA – Scope and role

A CRNA is a nurse trained in the administration of anesthesia. He is basically a certified and registered nursing anesthetist. The CRNA completes the regular nursing degree and then goes on to get trained in the basics of anesthesia through a master’s degree of two years. They have a total experience of around 2-3 years. They assist the anesthesiologist during the surgery. But they cannot take a call on the dosage and are not allowed to practice independently. They are supposed to carry out the instructions given by the anesthesiologist and monitor patient condition. They are not experienced enough to handle the emergencies that may come during a surgery. They will always work under the supervision of a board certified anesthesiologist in a hospital setup.

Nursing anesthetists are capable of handling the technical aspects of anesthesia administration but cannot manage the patient as a whole. They cannot work independently.

Even in private set ups where outpatient and day surgeries are carried out, anesthesiologist is the first choice as the patient condition is at stake.

To summarize, the basic difference between a nursing anesthetist and an anesthesiologist is the qualification and the experience that comes along with it. Anesthesiologist are more qualified and rigorously trained to tackle any medical emergency. Anesthetists are nurses with additional training in the skill of administering anesthesia but are not adequately experienced enough to handle medical emergencies alone.

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