Paul Liszewski, CRNA, DNP

I hadn’t attended the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists’ Annual Congress for more than 10 years. Back then it was called the AANA National meeting and I was a relatively new CRNA, wide-eyed and happy to be in Orlando for a week.

This time around, I went as a presenter in the New Speaker/Hot Topics program and with a veteran CRNA perspective. I have been to a number of education meetings over the years of my anesthesia career, including locales like Colorado, Utah, California, Wyoming and the Bahamas, yet the 2014 AANA Annual Congress meeting was the most impressive affair of all.

The facilities and organization were first class, as you would expect, but the aspect that made the biggest impression with me was the professionalism. From the SRNA and CRNA attendees who represented nurse anesthesia with class, to the outstanding presenters who made my own well-researched and practiced presentation feel like I was Justin Bieber teaching physic to a Mensa group, and the AANA leaders who were simultaneously inspiring and approachable, I was very encouraged by the state of my profession and its future in the challenging environment of healthcare in the US.

My presentation for the 2014 AANA Annual Congress was entitled “Patient Selection for Ambulatory Surgery: The controversies of obstructive sleep apnea and morbid obesity”.

This is a topic that I have been studying intently because it effects my everyday practice of nurse anesthesia. In my current position of providing anesthesia services to a variety of ambulatory surgery centers, I am frequently presented with the dilemma of caring for patients with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea or non-optimized morbid obesity. The most recent published recommendations for anesthetic care of these patients are unsatisfactory due to a lack of strong clinical trials that prompted for consensus opinion to be the primary source for guideline suggestions. This methodology allows for inconsistency between the professional associations creating the recommendations and this further muddies the water of clinical decision making.

In my presentation, I contrasted and compared several recently published recommendations for OSA and the obese surgical patient. As part of the New Speaker/Hot Topics program, CRNA faculty members reviewed each presentation and offered feedback. So when I climbed up to the podium at my scheduled time I looked down at the CRNA evaluators sitting in the front row, including one expert whose book I had just read several months prior, and I confess that I have never been so nervous to speak in my life. I remember looking out in the crowd of hundreds of my peers and CRNA leaders, and the rest of my talk was a blur. I vaguely remember telling my few rehearsed jokes as my presentation rolled on and I got a few laughs. And then I was asking for final questions at the end of my time slot. I have talked in front of different groups over the years, in the roles of educator, employee, and practitioner, but this group was the most intimidating that I’ve faced.

I determined the reason for my apprehension was the level of professionalism and performance that I observed from the attendees and presenters at the meeting. Afterwards, I was approached by several CRNAs who wanted to discuss their experiences with the topic of patient selection and I gained valuable insight from hearing their stories and suggestions. I am scheduled to present this topic at the 2015 Spring Anesthesia Conference sponsored by Allegheny

Anesthetists, and I expect my lecture to be improved by the feedback and experience I gained from the Annual Congress. The Spring Anesthesia Conference is another opportunity to see the best and brightest of future CRNAS, and to appreciate a sense of pride in the profession of nurse anesthesia.

Since this blog is being posted in January 2015, I want to remind all CRNAs and SRNAs to celebrate National Nurse Anesthetist Week during January 25-31. This year’s theme is The Future of Anesthetic Care Today. My observation is that the delivery of safe, appropriate, and cost-effective anesthetic care is being reliably performed by our profession and it’s a good time to celebrate and educate our fellow colleagues and the public to that idea.