(FOX 9) - Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are having their skills tested like never before during the pandemic.
This group of men and women responds to COVID-19 patients barely hanging on to life.
Pre-pandemic, the group of specialized nurses provided anesthesia care alongside surgeons, dentists, podiatrists, and more.
But now, they are caring for patients in the critical moments between life and death by getting breathing tubes down airways.
"It’s been very traumatizing on our staff," Caitlyn Thompson, a CRNA at Regions Hospital told FOX 9 during an interview. "Sometimes we know it’s the last conversation that a patient can ever vocalize."
In addition to PPE, what’s new for CRNA’s is carrying a backpack full of supplies to respond to patients having a crisis in their airways. They also administer feeding tubes.
Their jobs have changed in so many ways during the pandemic, and while critical, many of them have faced job loss because elective surgeries are few and far in between.
"Regions Hospital has a sub-specialty surgery center and it closed," said Thompson. "The CRNAs at the specialty center were furloughed. We’ve been able to get them here for some trauma cases and the few elective [surgeries] that we're able to be done per the governor’s guidelines."
Their required training in hospital Intensive Care Units allows them to jump in and help other nurses who are exhausted. Many are also ready to help the state administer vaccines when supplies are ready.
"The faster we can do it, the better," said Eric Swanlund, CRNA and spokesperson for the Minnesota Association of Nurse Anesthetics. "CRNAs have the skillset to offer and more than happy to offer those skills."
There are about 1,900 CRNA’s in Minnesota, according to Swanlund.