National Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists Week lasts from January 22-28. To recognize those who work in this segment of the nursing field, we interviewed Dan Lovinaria, DNP, MBA, MS, APRN, CRNA, who works at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System (MVAHCA) to find out more about it what it’s like to work as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Lovinaria has been a nurse for more than 25 years, has been practicing anesthesia for more than 15 years, and is also a clinical assistant professor and an associate program director at the University of Minnesota Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Anesthesia Program. What follows is an edited version of our interview.

As a CRNA, what does your job entail? What might you do on a daily basis?

As a VA CRNA, my top priority every day is to provide access to safe anesthesia care for the amazing Veterans who fought for our freedom. I am humbled and honored to hear the Veterans’ stories about their deployments in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gulf War, to name a few.

Being a VA CRNA comes with a tremendous responsibility and a great deal of accountability. Patients are often anxious and nervous about their surgical procedures. It is my duty to set the tone and make an immediate connection with my patients upon their arrival in the preoperative phase. Something as simple as providing warm blankets to my patients goes a long way. The little things that make a significant impact.

I also ensure that my patients are well-informed about their procedure, and I answer their questions and reassure them I will be with them from the beginning to the end of the procedure. I will be carefully and vigilantly watching their every vital sign and breath during, and adjusting their anesthesia as necessary.

On any given day, I provide anesthesia care along with my physician anesthesiologist colleagues to our Veterans needing cardiac bypass, joint replacement, cataract extraction, endoscopy, or urologic procedures. We provide various types of anesthesia including conscious sedation as well as regional and general anesthesia techniques.

Why did you choose this field of nursing?

As a young immigrant from the Philippines, I always wanted to pursue a career in health care. Many of my relatives were nurses, physicians, and dentists. It’s in the blood.

When I was a sophomore in college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I drove him to his radiation treatments. The dedicated nurses who cared for him left an indelible impression on my mind and sparked my passion for nursing. After my father’s passing, this experience solidified my desire to pursue nursing.

What are the biggest challenges of your job?

In today’s ever-changing and ever-evolving health care landscape, it is a challenge finding balance to provide the best and most appropriate anesthesia care while considering the high costs associated with services rendered.

Another challenge with my job is that health policies continue to change and can vary drastically in some instances. Governing bodies continue to dictate what should be done for our patients versus what is the appropriate care for these patients as determined by the providers who care for them.

What are the greatest rewards?

There are many intangible rewards associated with the nurse anesthesia profession. First of all, having the opportunity to care for our nation’s Veterans is the ultimate reward. They are very special, gracious, and always thankful for the care received.

Another reward is when you witness a baby being born and held by their parents for the first time. It is very emotional. I keep telling myself that I am making a difference one baby, one mother, and one Veteran at a time.

What would you say to someone who is considering this field?

Being a CRNA is the best profession. It is challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling all at the same time. CRNAs provide the majority of the 40 million anesthetics in the country and are often the only anesthesia providers in rural America and other medically underserved areas around the country.

CRNAs are highly educated and trained to administer safe and effective anesthesia in every health care setting and situation. CRNAs are no longer the best kept secret in health care.

Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.

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