New Hampshire nurse anesthetists are ready and able to help

Already with advanced training, they can shift roles to many other hospital tasks

As hospitals prepare for the anticipated surge of Covid-19 patients in New Hampshire, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), or nurse anesthesiologists, are uniquely prepared to help address the influx of critically ill patients due to the current pandemic.

Elective surgical cases are canceled in hospitals throughout the Granite State, which creates an opportunity for CRNAs to shift roles to provide valuable services beyond the operating suite.

As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), we can function in many areas of the hospital, including supporting emergency room and critical care units. Nurse anesthesiologists already provide essential expertise in triage, rapid systems assessment, airway management, ventilatory and hemodynamic support, emergency preparedness and resource management. Our members and our association are ready to serve those in need when demand for care spikes.

As resources stretch thin to handle the likely demand for urgent and immediate 24-hour care, CRNAs can make valuable contributions to the discussions about emergency preparedness. Our training and job duties result in the development of leadership qualities that translate well to the development, communication, and implementation of disaster plans, policies and procedures. Those of us who are not permanently assigned to specific hospitals have the flexibility to move from one “hot spot” to another and serve as an immediate influx of highly skilled providers to handle increased patient load.

As highly trained nurses, our role in the operating room is to manage the vital functions that support life — from breathing to blood pressure, from interpreting heart rhythms to laboratory testing, from administration of medications to performing invasive procedures — nurse anesthesiologists are uniquely prepared to respond to the unexpected and can support the medical teams on the front lines of this pandemic.

CRNAs’ expertise is invaluable in a myriad of ways during this Covid-19 pandemic. Our rapid assessment skills make us a valuable adjunct to an emergency department team. We will assist the nurses, physicians, and hospital supervisor with both triage and treatment. CRNAs can establish vascular access and place intravenous or intra-arterial lines at critical moments. As experts in managing airways, we can lead emergency airway teams or provide assistance with ventilatory management. Similarly, nurse anesthesiologists can lead “code blue” or cardiac arrest teams.

Our background prepares us to provide calm direction and strong leadership during critical events. Finally, we can float or help manage patients within the intensive care unit to spread out the workload.

We say all of this as a way of reassuring the public that there are additional resources available within the current health care provider network, and we are honored to be here to answer the call, to step out of the more familiar role of our profession and to respond to those in need. So many families have had to do the same thing in their world and we simply wish to serve and to help respond to this deadly crisis.

Nurse anesthesiologists possess essential assessment and technical skills that will be instrumental in joining the countless other providers who will lead our state in the successful management of the current Covid-19 crisis. The medical community will no doubt be strained to a breaking point if the estimates for the numbers of Granite Staters expected to contract Covid-19 becomes a reality.

We are facing the ultimate test of our stamina, resources and abilities. We are ready to offer vital services to the citizens of the Granite State. Nurse anesthesiologists are prepared to stand up for New Hampshire as front-line providers in the fight against COVID-19.

For hospitals, clinics and those who are facing unprecedented challenges in manpower and resources, we are here as a resource for you. Please reach out through our website, NHANA.org. We will get through this together.

Rachel Ritter is president of the board of directors of the New Hampshire Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Categories: Health, Opinion