Anesthesia training meant to help surgery wait times



Photo courtesy of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario


Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, second from right, speaks with nurses. The RNAO has supported the role of the nurse practitioner-anesthesia.


Nurses have always been an integral part of the health care system — assisting doctors during surgeries and examinations, coordinating and implementing patient care, administering medication and carrying out research, to name a few. But few people are aware that nurses have also embarked on a new role: nurse practitioner-anesthesia.

In March, Ontario’s Ministry of Health announced that it would help ease surgical wait items with the creation of “anesthesia care teams,” specially designed to increase the number of trained anesthesia professionals in the health-care system.

Training nurses in anesthesia will enable them to do the necessary pre- and post-operative patient care work, which in turn frees up the anesthesiologist to do more surgeries. The care team would be a collaborative effort between the anesthesiologist and nurse practitioner anesthesia, along with an anesthesia assistant, who would provide technical support.

“The more nursing becomes part of the solution, the better the public will be served and have more timely access to quality health-care services,” said Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).

The role “nurse practitioner-anesthesia” would be filled by “registered nurses who possess an advanced degree at the Masters’ level, educated at the University of Toronto, who will be involved in anesthesia care before, during and after a surgery,” Grinspun said.

“The RNAO has been advocating this (project), as it has already existed in the U.S. for many years,” she said, adding “Ontario is leading the way in Canada.”

Nurse practitioners-anesthesia will be trained at the University of Toronto, in a joint program set up between the faculties of nursing and medicine — the Ontario government will provide the funding.

She said this new initiative will allow for timely patient access for surgeries, as there exists a problem with wait times and a shortage of anesthesiologists, and added that the role of nurses will be fully utilized in these care teams.

Nine pilot projects have been created at health care centres across Ontario, including at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University Health Network and Toronto East General Hospital.