In 1975, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) approved the establishment of Councils to oversee the accreditation and certification processes for nurse anesthetists. In doing so, the profession recognized that credentialing mechanisms, which include examination and certification, function to protect and benefit the public. Nurse anesthetists established a rigorous national certification examination earlier than most nursing, allied health, and medical professions, and became an early adopter of computerized adaptive testing technology. The profession has required recertification since 1978. In 2007, the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists (CCNA) and the Council on Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (COR) became independent of the AANA, and together incorporated as the NBCRNA. While an autonomous organization, the NBCRNA continues to work closely with the AANA on issues of mutual concern.
The NBCRNA credentialing provides assurances to the public that certified individuals have met objective, predetermined qualifications for providing nurse anesthesia services. While state licensure provides the legal credential for the practice of professional nursing, private voluntary certification indicates compliance with the professional standards for practice in this clinical nursing specialty. The certification credential for nurse anesthetists has been institutionalized in many position descriptions as a practice requirement or as the standard for demonstrating equivalency. It has been recognized through malpractice litigation, state nurse practice acts, and state rules and regulations.
The NBCRNA is managed by an eleven member Board of Directors, who are recognized as leaders in nurse anesthesia and related fields. Eight members of the Board are certified nurse anesthetists. The remaining three members consist of a board certified anesthesiologist, a board certified surgeon, and a director who represents the public. Members of the Board are elected to serve staggered three year terms.