Ep 82: The Story of Nurse Anesthesia Education and Accreditation

Nearly a century ago, nurse anesthetists took the first steps towards standardizing education and moving towards an approval process. It was a journey that faced many challenges and took various forms before reaching the point where we are today. Betty Horton, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, and Mike Kremer, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, join the show to take us through this history of education and accreditation along with where we’re headed. 

Click the timestamps below to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

On This Episode:

In the very near future, a mandated doctoral degree will become the standard for nurse anesthetists. It’s another major step forward for the profession and the culmination of decades of hard work to improve the skills and education of every CRNA.

As part of our historical series, we’re going back through the past century to find out how the accreditation process came about and how the emphasis on education changed over time. To help us with this discussion, we asked Betty Horton, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, and Mike Kremer, PhD, CRNA, FAAN, to be a part of the this episode of Beyond the Mask.

Not only do they both have impressive credentials in nurse anesthesia, but they both worked with the AANA on a project highlighting this same topic. There aren’t two better people to educate us on this history.

We’ll go all the way back to the 1930s, when the approval process for schools of nurse anesthesia first started becoming a ting. It began with a four-month program that resulted in a certificate and eventually ramped up to six months, 12 months, and 18 months. It would still take about 20 years before the US Office of Education would recognize the work that had been done, but it justified all the work that had come before that time.

As we move through the history of accreditation and education, we’ll talk about the challenges that faced this process over the years, how schooling has changed, and why we seek external approval. Plus, we’ll talk about how physicians tried to shut down schools at one point.

We’ll finish up by looking out towards the future to see where education might be headed. Mandated doctoral degree for nurse anesthetists are next for the profession in 2025 and it’s another example of how we’ve led the way for nursing. What else could be on the horizon?

Thanks again to Betty and Mike for taking the time to share what they’ve learned about this part of our history.

Check it out at the top of the page and use the timestamps to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

3:34 – Another historical episode today with Betty Horton and Mike Kremer

6:06 – Why was their interest in starting an approval process for the schools of nurse anesthesia?

7:55 – What was Helen Lamb’s role in the process?

8:20 – The AANA archives are impressive.

9:08 – What all went into the accreditation process?

11:57 – When did we start approving nurse anesthesia schools and has that changed over time?

16:37 – How has the education changed for SRNAs and CRNAs

18:55 – Nurse anesthetists have lead the way in the nursing industry.

21:39 – Seeking external approval for accreditation.

25:03 – Challenges for accreditation through history.

29:54 – Physicians tried to shut down the schools at one point.

32:57 – What’s the status of nurse anesthesia education now?

36:31 – Closing thoughts from our guests.


“Before we had our certification process in 1945, the thing that was valued about graduating from an approved program was being eligible to be a member of the AANA. “

-Mike Kremer, PhD, CRNA, FAAN

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