Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

November 2006

Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: Educational Studies. Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn L. Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 Sharon Hadenfeldt.


The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) was the first advanced practice nursing specialty, dating to the late Nineteenth Century in the United States. Nurses were first recruited and trained by surgeons to administer anesthesia beginning in the 1870’s in the United States. Apprenticeship training by either a surgeon, or another nurse, was the initial method of anesthesia training for the early nurse anesthetist. Post-graduate training programs began to appear within some hospitals at approximately 1910. The hospital-based nurse anesthesia programs became more standardized with the implementation of an accreditation program in 1952. Beginning in 1971 nurse anesthesia programs began to affiliate with academic institutions and began to award academic degrees. A master’s level education was mandated for all nurse anesthesia programs in 1998.

The purpose of this study was to document the history of the education of nurse anesthetists in Nebraska from the Nineteenth Century to 2006. Evidence of: apprenticeship training, anesthesia training during the basic nursing school curriculum, organized post-graduate training programs prior to the implementation of accreditation by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), postgraduate hospital-based programs accredited by the AANA beginning in 1952, and academic degree programs at the baccalaureate and master’s level was sought and analyzed. Analysis of primary and secondary documentary evidence, as well as the collection of eighteen oral history interviews was completed for the study. Nurse anesthesia education in Nebraska evolved through three primary phases. The first phase was apprenticeship training occurring between 1898 and 1925, the second was the training of nursing students in the administration of anesthesia during the basic nursing education, occurring commonly between 1915 and 1930, and the third was the establishment of post-graduate programs. The first Nebraska post-graduate program was initiated in 1947 with an additional five programs operating at some time in the state. Three of the programs operated for two to six years, educating a small number of nurse anesthetists. All but one closed by 1987, leaving a single nurse anesthesia program in Nebraska.
Adviser: Marilyn L. Grady

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